Key events

To close it out in the usual way as Joe Cocker, one of Sheffield’s most famous sons, had it at Woodstock, here’s today’s Football Daily: about last night.

Thanks for reading this fine Friday.

Southampton chasing Swansea’s Russell Martin

Ben Fisher has the lowdown on the relegated club…

The 37-year-old is highly rated by Rasmus Ankersen, the chairman of Southampton’s owner, Sport Republic. Martin has just led Swansea to 10th in the Championship, three points off the playoffs, having finished 15th in his first campaign at the club.

AZ make official apology for Conference League trouble

AZ Alkmaar have made an official apology for the behaviour of fans and the trouble that took place during Thursday’s Europa Conference League semi-final with West Ham.

An AZ statement read:

English statement: ‘Pitch black evening’
While everyone hoped for a historic European match, it turned into a pitch black evening due to the events occurring at the referee’s final whistle. It turned into a night to reflect on with shame. Not because of the football game played, but because of the behaviour of some visitors. Unfortunately, we cannot use the word ‘supporters’ for these people.

What happened is beyond all bounds. The club again sincerely apologises to West Ham United and the thousands of well minded AZ supporters who have also been inconvenienced by the misconduct.

In the coming period AZ will – together with the police, Public Prosecution Service, and Alkmaar’s municipality – evaluate exactly what happened, how it could have happened and what needs to be improved from now on. It is clear that things need to be improved. Part of the evaluation is a thorough review of all available footage so that appropriate consequences may follow for those responsible for this outrageous behavior.

AZ is a civilised club where sportsmanship and norms and values are paramount. The club will do everything possible, together with the authorities involved, to identify these persons and to take appropriate measures.

Sam Allardyce on AI and the environment? We’re all here for that.

🗣️ “I fear for our lives with social media with what it’s bringing to our world. AI for me, it’s not a great future the way we are looking at the world and what we’re doing with climate change.”

Sam Allardyce says he isn’t optimistic about the future for humans. 🤖 pic.twitter.com/iQjsvP5Hww

— Football Daily (@footballdaily) May 19, 2023

England’s Young Lions, the European champions, will be accompanied by former England Women’s coach Hope Powell, working out in Argentina for the Under-20 World Cup.

Hope Powell will be part of our #YoungLions‘ backroom team at the #U20WC, supporting Ian Foster and his coaching team as a technical advisor 👊

— England (@England) May 19, 2023

Our story on that Wigan four-point punishment.

Nick Ames hears from Aaron Ramsdale, a goalkeeper of a growing reputation in a team that should get even better next season.

This narrative of ‘bottled it’, I think it is an easy way out. It’s just quick, cheap narrative from certain people who have not actually gone digging into stories of what we’ve achieved. Some people are saying it and forgetting that other teams have had the same experience as us. We let them worry about that, let them get views and people listening to them. We are disappointed but extremely proud of ourselves as well.

Manchester City v Chelsea: Pep Guardiola reminds us all that until a fortnight ago or so, there was a title race in which his team was having to do the chasing.

They’ve showed it many times and now we talk about mentality because we won. I don’t believe I defend the team when we lose. Last year we didn’t have the mentality vs Madrid but now we have the same mentality. To recover eight points, we knew we had to win games and they had to drop points. If Arsenal maintained the rhythm of the first leg, it wouldn’t have been possible. They dropped points and we were there. It means a lot to us.

TV’s loss will be High Performance’s gain.

Manchester City v Chelsea:

Frank Lampard has been garlanding City with praise while also being defensive of his rather indifferent record as Chelsea’s caretaker manager: “I have enjoyed it. You want to always get results but I had to be realistic. We are where we are for a reason.

“I can’t always impact results. There’s a lot of work to do here, but when I walk away I want there to be a feeling in the group, that they all have impressive careers here going forward.”

Wigan penalised four points for 2023-24 season

Wigan Athletic will be deducted four points from the 2023/24 Sky Bet League One table after failing to pay its players’ wages on time in May 2023 and further to previous breaches of EFL Regulations.

The sanction will be applied at the start of the new league campaign with the Club also receiving an additional four-point deduction for season 2023/24, which is to be suspended until 30 June 2024.

That sanction will come into effect if the Club’s owner, Mr Abdulrahman Al Jasmi, fails to deposit an amount equal to 125% of the Club’s forecast monthly wage bill in a designated Club account, a key term of the Agreed Decision reached between the EFL and the Club in January, by Wednesday 24 May 2023.

The suspended deduction will also be activated if the Club fails to pay its players on time between now and the end of June 2024.

In addition, the Club has also had a further three points deducted from its 2022/23 Championship total for the late payment of players’ wages in March 2023 resulting in their final total being 39 points.

Mr Al Jasmi was also charged with Misconduct and fined £10,000 for failing to comply with the terms of the Agreed Decision.

Wigan Athletic will begin life in League One with a four-point deduction after failing to pay players on time, and it could get worse: pic.twitter.com/JG7fG2O7o8

— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) May 19, 2023

Update/correction on 13.55’s entry: Rishi Sunak knows his football. A transcription error from PA Media meant that, after an interview with the BBC’s Chris Mason, he was wrongly accused of saying Birmingham were promoted this season. He actually said “Burnley”, who were of course the winner’s of this season’s Championship, as a video of the interview proves. And to be fair, he stayed till the end last week when Southampton were relegated.

World football news: this seems significant in geopolitical terms.

Caf had been due to launch the 24-team tournament that has been heavily supported by the Fifa president, Gianni Infantino, in August as part of plans to raise the global profile of African clubs and generate increased revenue. The Super League, first mooted by Infantino in 2018 and announced by Caf’s president, Patrice Motsepe, in October, is planned to have prize fund of $100m that includes $11.6m for the winner – almost $8m more than currently on offer for the winners of the African Champions League – and a solidarity fund that bring each of the 54 Caf member associations $1m a year towards football development.

Liverpool v Aston Villa: Anfield will wave off four players on Saturday – Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Naby Keita, James Milner and Bobby Firmino and Jürgen Klopp has paid tribute:

This game will be super difficult for different reasons. We spoke already with the boys; it is super important but also super emotional. We are saying goodbye to, from my point of view, four Liverpool legends. Two of them were here when I arrived, Milly and Bobby, and all the good things that have happened wouldn’t have without them.

Ox came in, then Naby. Ox was unlucky in moments, bad injuries at bad moments, but he’s a fantastic guy. When people think about Naby, [he’s had] a few too many injuries, but he played and performed well in some important games. We love them but it is professional football; nothing is forever.

Jacob Steinberg has gone *there*, questioning the future of David Moyes, just when West Ham have reached a European final.

This is history in the making. There is an argument that Moyes should leave on a high if he wins, cementing his status as a club legend. But would he want to walk away and would West Ham’s largest shareholder, David Sullivan, be brave enough to push for change?

Broadcast News: Jake Humphrey has announced he is “stepping back” from BT.

BT Sports will become TNT this summer, now that Discovery have made a heavy investment into merging BT, with new offices, and what the viewer will be presented with next season remains opaque, despite BT currently training TNT. One thing now certain is that Humphrey will not be part of the team. That’s good news for fans of his High Performance podcast.

1/4
After 10 wonderful years, I am stepping back from BT.

As a football fan, hosting Premier League matches, FA Cup games and European Finals has meant the world to me. It has been my dream job. 

I’ve loved being a very small part of a world class production team.

— Jake Humphrey (@mrjakehumphrey) May 19, 2023

Politics corner: Rishi Sunak has done a David Cameron Villa/Hammers mixup – well, almost. Having been present when his beloved Southampton were relegated last week, the prime minister decided to keep up the footy vibe in chatting to the BBC. “It was a sad moment but I was pleased I could be there, actually, and be there with the fans and my family were there as well with their season tickets, quite near where I was sitting,” he said. ““It was nice to be back home to my football team I have supported since I was a kid and, hopefully, we can bounce straight back up as Birmingham and Sheffield United have in reasonably short order.”

Birmingham, of course, finished 17th, the Blues stuck in the Championship for the last 12 seasons. Who Rishi meant was Burnley, Big Vinny Kompany’s flashing blades. Oh well.

Rishi Sunak saw Fulham beat Southampton last week. Photograph: Sean Ryan/IPS/Shutterstock

Chris Rea fan Michael Butler has been looking into whether clubs turn it in at the end of a season.

There can, however, be external factors. At this stage of the season, teams can easily be weakened by injuries or managers choosing to rest players for a cup tie. Often at this stage a few players are worried about picking up a knock before a European Championship or World Cup. Lots of things can affect a player’s commitment, but it is a more random, sporadic set of reasons than a broad trend of players not trying.

Good afternoon London time, and we build up to the weekend. Anyone else get the feeling Manchester City will be popping the corks on Saturday rather than Sunday evening?

Handover time: That’s all from me but I’ll leave you in the very capable hands of John Brewin. Have a great weekend, wherever you might be.

Brentford give full support to Toney

Brentford: Thomas Frank has been holding court and the first order of business at his press conference was, predictably enough, his reaction to the eight-month ban handed down to Ivan Toney on Wednesday as punishment for multiple breaches of betting regulations. The 27-year-old will not be allowed to play again until 17 January and cannot even train with his team-mates until mid-September. Many commentators have said the punishment is excessive and smacks of double standards from a Football Association whose sport is inextricably linked with the gambling industry. “I’ve been in contact with him,” said Frank. “He’s disappointed and sad about the situation. His future is with Brentford, there’s no doubt about that.”

Upon being asked if Toney is even allowed to set foot on Brentford’s training ground during the first four months of his ban, the Brentford manager said he isn’t sure. “We actually don’t know,” he said. “We are waiting for the information to see what we can do and what he is allowed to do for the first four months. We will do everything we can to be there for him, support him and be aware of the mental health of it. Of course he has made some mistakes. When you are waiting for what the sanction is going to be, the uncertainty is probably the worst thing. At least now he knows what it means.”

Thomas Frank has said Brentford will “do everything we can” to support Ivan Toney during his eight-month ban from football. Photograph: Dave Shopland/Shutterstock

Bournemouth v Manchester United: Fighting to keep fourth spot in the Premier League with Liverpool breathing down their necks, Manchester United travel to Bournemouth tomorrow but could be without Marcus Rashford for the second game in succession. The England striker, who has scored 32 goals for club and country this season, missed last weekend’s win over Wolves through injury and after training all week in preparation for the Bournemouth game, is now reported to be feeling unwell.

“Rashy trained well the whole week but today he reported he doesn’t feel well, so he is ill,” Erik Ten Hag. “We have to see how he recovers during the day and then see tomorrow.” United go into the game with a one-point advantage over Liverpool and a game in hand but can ill afford any more slip-ups after recent defeats at Brighton and West Ham.

“When I see this project, first of all it’s important to get in the Champions League,” said Ten Hag. “I don’t think today at that standard, I look to the next game, and that’s Bournemouth. We have to win that game to get in the Champions League. We have everything in our hands so focus on the game, the games coming up, the first game is the most important.”

Scott McTominay is expected to be available to face Bournemouth but on-loan midfielder Marcel Sabitzer will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury. Asked whether the Bayern Munich player could have a future at Old Trafford, Ten Hag said: “We will see. It’s not our main focus, the main focus is Bournemouth.”

Newcastle United: Following last night’s win over Brighton, Newcastle need just one win from their remaining two games to secure Champions League qualification for the first time in 21 years. Despite having spent £250m on strengthening his squad since the club was taken over by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Eddie Howe has acknowledged that he will need to get plenty of new bodies in ahead of next season’s European adventures. In the unlikely event Newcastle drop out of the top four, they will still be competing in the Europa League.

“If you have a strong squad, rotation will be important,” he said. “Rotation is going to be important, utilising the whole squad is going to be important. We haven’t felt the necessity to necessarily do that on a consistent basis because we’ve been in one competition – of course, we had the cup run.

We have rotated to a degree, but maybe not in the numbers that we might need to next year. If you’re going to do that, then the squad needs to be strong enough, so if you put out two XIs, they’re of equal strength.”

Newcastle host a beleaguered Leicester side who are desperate for points on Monday night but will be without Joe Willock, who limpedd off last night with what is presumed to be a season-ending hamstring injury. Sean Longstaff and Jacob Murphy are also likely to miss out, while Bruno Guimaraes is playing through the pain while struggling with an ongoing ankle issue.

Howe also said that Joelinton is suffering from extreme fatigue after the Brazilian “succumbed to that brick wall” which he runs through in each game he plays. “It seemed to hurt him but we hope he’s OK,” he said.

Joe Willock almost certainly won’t feature for Newcastle again this season after pulling his hamstring in last night’s match against Brighton. Photograph: Richard Lee/Shutterstock

Xhaka’s Arsenal future up in the air

Mikel Arteta has said discussions over the future of Granit Xhaka will wait until the end of the season. The Swiss international midfielder is approaching the final 12 months of his deal at the Emirates Stadium and Bundesliga side Bayer Leverkusen are interested in signing him.

“The clarity is there,” said Arteta. “He is a player that has played I think every minute since I have been the manager. He is an incredibly respected figure at the club. He has a great story around him with what he has achieved at the club in going through very tough moments and he is a key and very important part of us. Whatever happens is something we will discuss, certainly not now.”

Xhaka has endured a largely successful career at Arsenal since signing for the club from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2016 but was stripped of the club captaincy and looked to have burnt his bridges with Gooners after gesturing angrily at them, mouthing obscenities and discarding his shirt after they cheered his substitution during a match against Crystal Palace in 2019. Despite occasional bouts of hot-headedness, he has since achieved the near impossible by firmly re-establishing himself as a fan favourite at the club.

A decision on Granit Xhaka’s future – or lack of one – at Arsenal will not be made until the end of the season. Photograph: David Price/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

West Ham v Leeds United: Sam Allardyce’s soliloquy on the subject of AI [mentioned below] came on the back of a question he fielded about the torrents of abuse directed at Patrick Bamford by some Leeds fans on social media after the striker missed a penalty against Newcastle last weekend.

Bamford and his family were subjected to online threats by keyboard warriors and his manager feels more should be done to protect footballers from such toxic and potentially intimidating bile.

“He’s been OK,” he said of Bamford. “He’s obviously extremely upset about the situation. It’s something that’s left a very, very bad taste indeed. I’d like the police to do a lot more, but it appears with social media they rule the world and can say and do what they want unfortunately, which is why the world’s in such a big mess, isn’t it?

“But he’s handled it pretty well. I think the club gave him as much support as he needed, particularly security-wise. It wasn’t just about him, it was about his family. The best way for him to respond is to go out on Sunday, play to his highest level and try and score. It would be great if he scored the winner. Hopefully it won’t affect his performance.”

Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford was the subject to threats on social media after missing a penalty against Newcastle United last weekend. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Wolves v Everton: Deep in the relegation doo-doo along with Leeds, Leicester and Nottingham Forest, Everton travel to Molineux tomorrow and ahead of this crunch encounter Sean Dyche has been telling reporters what he does and doesn’t stare at.

“I don’t stare at the league table,” he said. “I stare at the performances, I stare at the group, I stare at the prep, I stare at the strategy, I stare at all these things, the tactics, these are the things I’m obsessing with.

“Of course we all debate it and look at it during a season, of course we do, but the one at the end of the season, that’s the most important, the one we’re looking to be above the line on. I think we’ve just stayed very clear-minded, trying to take away the layers of noise around our group to make sure we’re focused on the game. That’s all we look to do, others can do however they wish.”

Everton manager Sean Dyche has revealed that he stares at performances, the group, the prep, the strategy and the tactics but didn’t mention whether or not he is a man who stares at goats. Photograph: c Everett Collection/Rex Featu

West Ham v Leeds: Addressing far more frivolous matters, Big Sam turned his attention to the game and said he hoped West Ham’s win over AZ Alkmaar last night might benefit his team as David Moyes’ players may be focussed on their Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina and subconsciously trying to avoid picking up injuries.

“My job is about getting my team playing as well as possible,” he said. “We can normally guess the team that is going to be picked but it is very difficult to look at this one. [David Moyes] made nine changes when they played Brentford last week, and of course our preparation is to try to predict a team, work out how West Ham play and do a little bit of practice against that, both offensively and defensively.

“He might change the team but he will probably play the same way. I’m pleased for him [reaching a European final]; I’ve known him many years. He’s had a fantastic career. Hopefully when we are having a drink afterwards, it is us who have the three points, not him.”

Sam Allardyce hopes that he’ll be celebrating the acquisition of three points for Leeds United when he’s enjoying a post-match pint of Blue Nun with David Moyes on Sunday afternoon. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

West Ham v Leeds United: With Leeds battling against relegation and Sam Allardyce taking his side to his former stomping ground of West Ham, the big man has been offering his thoughts on exactly what you might expect ahead of the big game: artificial intelligence.

“I fear for our lives, as an old timer,” he said, channeling his inner Abraham Simpson. “AI (artificial intelligence). I’ve just heard about 40,000 jobs going at BT, what are they going to do? The next piece of AI comes in, another 30,000 jobs go, what are they going to do? For me, it is not a great future, the way we are looking at the world and what we are doing with climate change. I worry for my grandchildren.”

And so say all of us, Sam.

Jones to leave Manchester United after 12 years

The club have issued a statement confirming that the 31-year-old defender will leave Old Trafford when his current contract expires at the end of June.

Signed from Blackburn in 2011, Jones enjoyed a good start to his Manchester United career, winning the title in his first season with Sir Alex Ferguson making the bold and arguably unhelpful claim that Jones “could be our best player ever”.

However, a relentless catalogue of injuries derailed Jones’ career and he has barely played in recent years. Capped 27 times by England, Jones leaves United having made 229 appearances for the club, scoring six goals.

“It’s been very difficult, the last couple of years,” said Jones in an interview with the United media team. “There’s no denying that. There is no hiding away from that. My family have been absolutely instrumental in keeping me on the straight and narrow and keeping me focused, to try to get fit and try to play more.

“And, you know, I’ve missed playing football. I missed it. You grow up playing football and all you want to do is play football. It’s all I’ve known, from such a young age, is to do what you love doing for a living. I’ve been fortunate enough to do that, albeit not as much as I would have liked.”

United added: “Our No4 is now taking some time before deciding his next move and everybody at United would like to wish Phil the very best of luck for the future.”

Phil Jones gave a wide-ranging interview to the Guardian’s Donald McRae last year following his return from injury after a two-year absence, which you can read by clicking on this link. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Europa Conference League: West Ham’s joy in reaching the final of the Europa Conference League was marred by supporters of AZ Alkmaar confronting friends and family of the visiting players after the final whistle at the AFAS Stadion, writes Jacob Steinberg.

Pascal Jansen, AZ’s manager, apologised for the trouble. “I feel ashamed it happened in our stadium. It should not be happening. You have to stay in control of your emotions.” Read on …

AZ Alkmaar fans wearing black, hooded tops try to attack West Ham fans, including the family and friends of David Moyes and several players, following the Premier League side’s semi-final win in the Netherlands. Photograph: DeFodi Images/Getty Images

This weekend’s Premier League action

Manchester City will be confirmed as champions for the fifth time in six year with a victory over Chelsea in front of their own fans on Sunday but will not even need a result should Nottingham Forest beat Arsenal tomorrow afternoon.

Liverpool host Villa as they attempt to keep the pressure on Manchester United and Newcastle in the race for a top four finish, while Unai Emery’s men have European aspirations of their own. Duking it out to qualify for the Europa League, Villa are breathing down the necks of a Tottenham side who host Brentford and Brighton, who host already relegated Southampton.

In the fight against the drop, Forest entertain Arsenal, while Everton travel to Wolves and Leeds are hosted by a West Ham side that might still need a point to guarantee survival. And for the third time in three weeks, Leicester have to wait until Monday night to rage against the dying of the light. An unenviable trip to St James’ Park is next on their itinerary

Premier League fixtures

  • Tottenham Hotspur v Brentford (Sat 12.30pm BST)

  • Liverpool v Aston Villa (3pm)

  • Wolves v Everton (3pm)

  • Bournemouth v Manchester United (3pm)

  • Fulham v Crystal Palace (3pm)

  • Nottingham Forest v Arsenal (5.30pm)

  • West Ham v Leeds United (Sunday 1.30pm)

  • Brighton v Southampton (2pm)

  • Manchester City v Chelsea (4pm)

  • Newcastle United v Leicester City (Mon 8pm)

  • View the Premier League table

Football, bloody hell …

It’s the morning after the night before and leading into yet another big weekend. And what a night it was, eh? In the Premier League, Newcastle United put a recent wobble behind them to boost their hopes of a top four finish by emphatically beating Brighton at St James’ Park. One win from their final two games will guarantee the Mags their first taste of Champions League group action for 21 years.

On any other Thursday evening, West Ham’s win over AZ Alkmaar in the Europa Conference League to book their place in their first European cup final in 47 years would almost certainly guarantee top billing but at Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday had other ideas and yelled “hold our beer!” and rolled up their sleeves.

With angry calls for his head still ringing in his ears after last week’s League One playoff semi-final first leg humiliation at the hands of Peterborough United, Darren Moore somehow rallied his troops to pull off an astonishing comeback by overturning a four-goal deficit to qualify for the Wembley final. A 5-1 win after extra time in a terrific game took the tie to penalties and Wednesday’s nerveless players scored all five of theirs to miraculously advance.

It’s a hard to act to follow but there’s plenty of weekend action ahead in which various teams can try and we’ll be previewing plenty of it throughout the day.

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