OL Reign goalkeeper Karen Bardsley has been forced to withdraw from the Great Britain squad selected for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo as a result of a hamstring injury.
Bardsley joined Reign on loan from Manchester City for the 2021 NWSL season, having previously lost her place at City thanks to prior injury problems and the emergence of Ellie Roebuck.
The 36-year-old’s inclusion in the GB squad chosen by interim England manager Hege Riise did come as a surprise, but she brought masses of tournament experience to the group and was a veteran of the 2012 Olympics on home soil alongside a handful of others.
However, a hamstring injury now denies Bardsley, who was born and raised in the United States but has over 80 senior England caps, the chance to go to a second Olympic tournament.
Bardsley previously represented GB at the 2012 games / Joern Pollex/Getty Images
Bardsley is likely to be replaced in the 18-player GB squad by Everton goalkeeper Sandy MacIver, who was named on the reserve list when the main squad was announced.
The reserve players train and travel with the squad and can be subbed into the main group at any time during the tournament in the event of injury to one of the 18.
If MacIver is promoted to the full squad, as expected, she will need to be replaced on the reserve list. Her place will mostly likely to go to Chelsea’s Carly Telford, who has been at an England training camp this month and was on Riise’s original 35-player preliminary list.
Birmingham’s Hannah Hampton and emerging Manchester United youngster Emily Ramsey were the other goalkeepers at that five-day camp. Neither was on the original preliminary list, although working directly with Riise could put either of them, especially Hampton, in contention.
Sandy MacIver is likely to step up from the reserve list / Naomi Baker/Getty Images
The Olympic tournament is due to kick off on 21 July, with GB’s first game against Chile that day. They will then face Japan and Canada on 24 July and 27 July respectively and will hope to go further than the quarter-final exit they managed nine years ago in search of a medal.
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David Moyes has committed his future to West Ham after signing a new three-year deal at the club.
Negotiations over a new contract for the Scotsman have been ongoing for some time, though co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold were said to be keen assess the club’s finances before tabling an official offer.
Everton’s rumoured interest in their former boss following Carlo Ancelotti’s departure raised questions marks over whether Moyes could be on his way out the club, but any speculation has now been put to bed with the announcement that he’s signed fresh terms.
West Ham took to their official website to announce the news, expressing their delight at securing the future of their manager before lauding his success since returning to the club.
“West Ham United is delighted to announce that manager David Moyes has signed a new three-year contract with the club,” the statement read.
“Since returning to east London in December 2019, Moyes has made a hugely positive impact and his inclusive approach proved a perfect fit for the football club.
“And that has been accomplished in the most testing circumstances possible, with the COVID pandemic causing a three-month mid-season break and meaning all but two matches since March 2020 have been played without the Claret and Blue Army present.
“The 58-year-old – who is closing in on 100 matches in charge at London Stadium and 1,000 competitive games as a manager – is now looking forward to building on the foundations put in place by all at the club and continuing to develop his exciting, hungry and ambitious squad.”
Moyes himself took the opportunity to thank the board for their continued support before outlining his plans for the future.
David Moyes is staying at West Ham / Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
“I am delighted to have committed my future to West Ham United,” he said. “This is where I want to be and I’m happy. I’m excited to be given this opportunity to build on what we all have already achieved here. The owners and I are fully aligned with how we want to keep developing and improving the football club.
“The board and everyone at the club have been fantastic to work with, giving me great support and I feel that we are all united in what we want to achieve in the coming years and how we might be able to achieve those things.”
England manager Gareth Southgate is expected to be secure in his job no matter how the Three Lions perform at Euro 2020 this summer and is unlikely to be sacked even if his team flops hard and exits the tournament disappointingly early.
England are among the early favourites to win Euro 2020 and are further boosted by the fact that may only have to play one game away from Wembley – and a maximum of two – if they were to get all the way to the final, largely giving it the feel of a home tournament.
Southgate took England to the semi-finals of the last World Cup, his first summer tournament in charge, and later guided the team to the 2019 UEFA Nations League finals.
England could be in for a tough route through the Euro 2020 knockout stages because winning Group D means facing either France, Portugal or Germany in the last 16, but failing to at least get to another semi-final would likely be perceived by fans as a step backwards.
Southgate led England to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 / Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images
However, the Daily Telegraph writes that Southgate has delighted the FA with the work he has done so far and the general progress he has overseen since being appointed in 2016 and is in no danger of losing his job, even if Euro 2020 becomes an unexpected disaster for England.
Whether he would choose to walk away of his own accord in that scenario is another matter, but there wouldn’t be pressure from his bosses within the FA hierarchy.
Southgate’s current contract as England boss still covers the next tournament cycle after this one and runs until December 2022 after the World Cup in Qatar.
“Of course, my players and I will be judged on winning matches. Only one team can win the Euros. We have never done it before and we are desperate to do it for the first time. Believe me,” he said in an open letter to the nation with The Players’ Tribune.
“But, the reality is that the result is just a small part of it. When England play, there’s much more at stake than that. It’s about how we conduct ourselves on and off the pitch, how we bring people together, how we inspire and unite, how we create memories that last beyond the 90 minutes. That last beyond the summer. That last forever.”
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Exclusive – Wolves have informed new head coach Bruno Lage, who has replaced fellow countryman Nuno Espirito Santo at Molineux, that some of the bigger names at the club will be sold this summer in order fund reinvestment in the squad – including Ruben Neves and Adama Traore.
Wolves finished a disappointing 13th in the Premier League in 2020/21 following consecutive seasons in seventh place. Nuno has left and the squad is in need of fresh blood if they are to get back into an increasingly competitive top half of the table.
But the club’s financial records show that Wolves made pre-tax losses between £20m and £55m in three out of four seasons between 2016 and 2020. With the impact of the coronavirus pandemic still felt, that is likely to become four out of five by the time the 2020/21 accounts are finalised.
90min has already revealed that Chinese owners Fosun are restructuring their commitment and involvement with the club and it will take player sales to recoup some finances in order to now make a suitable spending budget available to the recruitment department.
Ruben Neves is available for for a fee between £30m – £40m / Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Two of the more prominent Wolves players who could attract buyers are Traore and Neves.
Having joined from Middlesbrough in 2018, 25-year-old Traore feels that now is the right time to leave Molineux. He made that known to the club in January when he put contract talks on hold, despite previously reaching an agreement in principle over a new deal.
Leeds and Liverpool were both interested in the Spain international then and Marcelo Bielsa’s side in particular remain very keen now. Liverpool are also still in the mix, having signed Diogo Jota from Wolves last summer. Chelsea and Manchester United asked to be kept informed of any developments, although the latter is making substantial progress in talks to sign primary target Jadon Sancho.
90min was first to reveal in early April that Wolves will not stand in the way of 24-year-old Neves leaving this summer if an offer matches their valuation in excess of £30m.
Traore & Neves recently played against each other ahead of Euro 2020 / Soccrates Images/Getty Images
Arsenal have since held talks over the Portugal international, although the Gunners are also working on other options to boost their midfield, including Brighton star Yves Bissouma.
Manchester United are still very keen on Neves. Central midfield has become an increasingly important position for the club to address this summer and 90min has been told that Bruno Fernandes has already given a glowing reference of his international colleague.
Declan Rice would be United’s ideal target in that position, but West Ham have given little in the way of encouragement that they are open to selling him, while Neves could potentially cost just half the price and that is also a consideration for the Old Trafford club.
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Six words that preceded the moment of a lifetime in Welsh football. Six words that came from the mouth of Chris Coleman, stood there in disbelief that his right wing back Chris Gunter had found himself in the Belgian final third in the 85th minute of a European Championship quarter final, unwilling to shield the ball in the corner to run down the clock.
Gunter did cross the ball, and in a sense, Coleman had got what he’d deserved. It was not an act of disobedience, but an illustration of the belief the then-Welsh coach had managed to instil in a group of players who’d lived through international disappointment so many times before. It was his compliment to his leader’s methods.
Now Wales’ most capped player, Gunter was one man in generations of Welsh people who had grown up watching their football teams fail, time after time, to reach a major competition. He’d seen Coleman come close, and he’d watched on as a narrow home defeat to Russia meant Wales missed out on Euro 2004 at the play-off stage. Mark Hughes never managed it, nor Ian Rush. They’re not the only big names either.
You’d have had to have dial back 58 years, to the days of John Charles, to find a time like this.
And while Pelé made sure Wales’ World Cup dreams ended at the last eight in 1958, Gunter’s cross made them come true. His sweep of the right foot saw the ball meet the head of the towering Sam Vokes, who – while he never scored many – sent a delightful glancing header beyond Thibaut Courtois to confirm it; Wales were toppling Belgium again, and Wales were going to the semi finals of the European Championship.
Perhaps it’s not quite a major achievement for countries capable of winning competitions like this one. But for a nation of three million, captivated by a football team who’d risen through disappointment and the heartbreak of losing their mentor, the great Gary Speed, it was the achievement. No Welsh fan will ever forget that feeling of ecstasy, nor will they forget it’s football – not only rugby – that’s able to provide it.
Chris Coleman followed on the good work of his dear friend Gary Speed / Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Coleman was the man ultimately responsible for the journey, but Speed had forged the path. Cookie, as he is affectionately known, had taken control of the national team – foundations built by Speed – in January 2012, just two months after his close friend’s passing.
“No one wants to be here, least of all me, if I’m honest,” he admitted on appointment. “On the one hand it’s probably the proudest moment of my career to get the opportunity to lead my country. However, to be given that opportunity because of a circumstance no-one could have foreseen, makes it bittersweet.”
The group of young players Speed had assembled endured tough moments in Coleman’s early months – the lowest coming in a 6-1 defeat away to Serbia – but began to peak for the qualifying stages of Euro 2016.
After gathering momentum with wins in Andorra and Israel, the tide had completely changed by June 2015, on a night where ?Gareth Bale’s 25th minute goal beat the Belgian Red Devils for the first time. You can trace back to that evening as being the moment where Welsh fans – and the players themselves – really believed.
The tournament itself was a fairytale. Tough-to-swallow defeat to England aside, Wales played with a freedom and determination that they could make an impact in France. Slovakia were beaten, Russia outclassed and Northern Ireland edged out in the last 16. It was on a night in Lille where Belgium would meet Wales again.
Being stubborn and hard to break down was Coleman’s first focus. So falling behind to a Radja Nainggolan thunderbolt after just 13 minutes was not the ideal beginning. And when Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku are looking to take their moment on the international stage, rallying back can seem a daunting prospect. Good thing, then, that ?De Bruyne left his post on a corner and allowed Ashley Williams to equalise.
Nainggolan’s may have been a stunner, Vokes’ the moment of realisation, but neither are the goal that’s really remembered. That honour sits with Hal Robson-Kanu.
Going in to Euro 2016, Robson-Kanu – without a club at the time following his release by Reading – could boast only two goals in 30 international appearances for Wales, but he was the man Coleman had decided would lead the line from the first whistle. And while it was his goal that edged the opening match with Slovakia, a European Championship quarter final was quite the removal from the usual for a player who has only recently passed 50 senior career goals – at the age of 30, having played primarily as a forward or winger for the duration.
But Robson-Kanu was the embodiment of Coleman’s team. His heart, effort and willingness to work for his teammates was key to the team functioning, and to the creation of space and time for the likes of Bale and Aaron Ramsey to exploit. So you’d have considered it something of a surprise to see Robson-Kanu himself seize a moment like this.
“‘Just watch this for a Cruyff turn! If that was Messi, they’d be talking about it for years! Just watch this. See ya later Meunier! See ya later…Denayer! See ya later Fellaini!'”
– Robbie Savage
It’s not difficult to send Robbie Savage giddy – you might suggest it’s his resting state – but his reaction to Robson-Kanu cutting the Belgian defence to ribbons spoke for thousands watching in the stadium and millions back home. Sheer delirium, pure nonsense, absolutely wonderful. He even backed it up with a ‘go and wake your kids up, something special is happening!’ post-Vokes decider.
Never were Wales meant to beat a collection of the world’s greatest footballers in a major competition. Never were Wales meant to reach the semi-finals of a European Championship, and never was Hal Robson-Kanu meant to be the one to send them there. But years of cultivating belief in a tight-knit group of friends, who just so happened to be footballers too, led to this moment. It led to this glorious victory that no Welshman will ever forget.
“He saw us grow up, and what we’ve achieved today. He’s always in the back of our minds. When we achieve something, we think about him,” were the words of Ashley Williams in reference to Speed prior to the semi-final, which Wales lost to Portugal.
Coleman had taken the personal heartbreak for himself, his team and his country, and turned it around as an inspiration to achieve something truly great. To create a moment like never before.
Coleman made Wales proud / Clive Rose/Getty Images
“Don’t be afraid to have dreams.”
Six words from the mouth of Chris Coleman, who on one night, had changed Welsh football forever.