How Lancashire's football clubs have fallen into decline

IAN HERBERT: Wigan facing ruin, Bolton sinking fast, Bury bust and Burnley at a crossroads as Sean Dyche’s request for squad investment falls upon deaf ears… How football has wilted in the county of the Red Rose

  • Wigan entered administration this week in another blow for Lancastrian football
  • Championship club won the FA Cup in 2013 but now find themselves in trouble
  • Success is sustained for as long as local owners are interested then rot sets in
  • Bolton have fallen from the Premier League to League Two in just a few years
  • Burnley face unsettling times with Sean Dyche asking the board for investment 

The evidence of the old Premier League days is everywhere at Wigan Athletic, killing the place by a thousand cuts with reminders of how far you can fall in football and how fast. 

Each time the players push through the green swing doors to their dressing room, they see the giant mural of their 2013 FA Cup triumph on the wall.

But there is a pattern of decline where the clubs within the old Lancashire county boundaries are concerned. 

Wigan’s FA Cup triumph of 2013 seems a distant dream after the Latics entered administration

Dave Whelan parades the FA Cup after their 2013 triumph during happier times for Wigan 

Reminders of the club’s glory years can be found everywhere at Wigan’s DW Stadium

Success delivered by a local owner with a passion for the place – for Whelan and Wigan, read Jack Walker at Blackburn and Eddie Davies for Bolton – is hard to sustain when those individuals decide enough is enough. 

The uncomfortable truth is that the former mill towns simply don’t attract credible takeover candidates in the way that those in the Greater London conurbation do.

Blackburn wound up with Venky’s, who saw fit to sack Sam Allardyce, dispense with the wise counsel of chief executive John Williams and… well, take your pick of the public embarrassments which followed. Paying out £7.5m on players who never kicked a ball probably topped the lot.

Bolton wound up with the reviled Ken Anderson. So your heart sank when, after Whelan was worn down having spent around £100m fighting Wigan’s battles, the phrase ‘unnamed Hong Kong group’ started circulating. 

Former Premier League champions Blackburn ended up in the hands of an Indian poultry firm

Disgruntled fans even released a live chicken onto the pitch at Ewood Park back in 2012 

Attendances were not even breaking 8,000 at the time. A mere 4,709 saw a giant-killing over Bournemouth in the Cup.

Worse has befallen others within the old Red Rose county boundaries. Blackpool’s civil war. Basket case Oldham. Bury, now bust. 

Burnley have sailed serenely on – sticking resolutely to Sean Dyche when relegated in 2015 and spending so abstemiously that a marginal profit in each transfer market has become an article of faith.

But they, too, now stand at a crossroads. Dyche, not unreasonably, feels that his eight years of accomplishment at the club entitles him to significant squad investment from the board this summer and views the act of standing still as heading backwards amid the relentlessly shifting dynamics of the Premier League.

After a thoroughly miserable 2019-20 season, Bolton have been relegated to League Two 

Ken Anderson took over Bolton amid financial strife but their decline only worsened

Anderson became a hate figure among Bolton fans as they dropped down the divisions 

Burnley, whose entire spend this season has been £17.4m, play Sheffield United, whose comparable outlay has been £62m, this weekend. 

Make no mistake about the private indignation the fixture brings for Dyche, as he watches Sander Berge (£19.3m) and Oli McBernie (£17m), who’ve arrived at Bramall Lane in the last year, run out at Turf Moor.

There is no sense of what transfer funds will be available to him this summer and how he might plan for another campaign in which far more moneyed clubs than Burnley – Leeds and West Bromwich Albion – will see the ground shift again.

Swirling around in the background – and the reason why no commitments have been made – is the suggestion that Burnley will be sold to a Middle East buyer this summer and that how the future looks will be dependent on whoever that buyer might be.

Bury have already gone bust – the League One club were expelled from the league last year

Distraught Bury fans outside their Gigg Lane ground after the Shakers went bust last August

‘Middle East’ does not equate to ‘Gulf state’ if rumours are to be believed. But ‘Middle East’ of any description is actually deeply unwelcome. 

Security means the club remaining in current hands, or at the very least still majority-owned by those individuals – Mike Garlick, Barry Kilby, Clive Holt, John Banaszkiewicz and others – who know the club top to bottom.

The model in many respects are Crystal Palace, defeated by Dyche’s side last weekend and now three places below them, whose chairman Steve Parish has settled on the manager, a relatively prosaic football method and found American investors, Josh Harris and David Blitzer, to help him develop the club in return for a large stake. The Palace core has not been lost.

Dyche’s imprint on Burnley is now absolute, in the way that Shankly’s was at Liverpool; Busby’s and Ferguson’s at Manchester United. 

Sean Dyche has called for squad investment at Burnley but the board don’t want to listen 

Dyche has established Burnley as a Premier League club but his time there could be at an end

Dyche with Burnley chairman Mike Garlick – there have been rumours of new owners 

The walls of the club’s Gawthorpe Hall training facility, which he had a major role in creating, are adorned with murals of his motivational messages which have driven Burnley on. 

Dismantling all that would leave the club’s world looking immeasurably poorer. It’s why anything less than a huge personal and financial commitment to him looks like folly.

The backlash against the board were Dyche to leave would, incidentally, be loud and long from fans, who have previously supported the cautious fiscal approach. 

Dyche’s public expressions of frustration should give cause for that board seek him out, sit him down, rebuild a relationship, adhere to his plans and express contrition that it had actually come to this.

Time is of the essence. The football landscape of the old Lancashire demonstrates that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

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HENRIK LARSSON: I got professional help after my brother's death

HENRIK LARSSON: I got professional help after hearing of my brother’s death while on duty for Sweden, why I didn’t drink after winning the Champions League and why Chris Sutton – not Wayne Rooney or Lionel Messi – is my favourite strike partner

  • Henrik Larsson has opened up on how he sought help after his brother’s death
  • Larsson talked about his life and career on The Lockdown Tactics Podcast
  • The Sweden legend reveals that Chris Sutton was his favourite strike partner
  • He would later move on to Barcelona following a hugely successful spell at Celtic

Henrik Larsson has opened up on how he sought professional help following the death of his brother Robert in 2009.

The Celtic, Barcelona and Sweden legend urged people going through similar traumas to do likewise saying: ‘You can’t be rescued if you don’t talk to someone’.

Larsson was a guest on Robert Snodgrass and Kris Boyd’s The Lockdown Tactics Podcast and he spoke at length about how he realised the importance of mental health counselling when his brother died of an overdose 11 years ago.

Henrik Larsson has opened up on how he sought professional help following his brother’s death while he was away on international duty with Sweden

Larsson said: ‘During my time in Scotland I had a brother who was on drugs. Knowing the things I knew about him and having to go out and perform week in week out it was not easy. In the end he took an overdose.

‘The pressure my parents felt about that and the worry that they had every night; me as well sometimes. It’s not easy so it’s important that you talk. 

‘I talked a lot at the time, and still do, with my wife about things that maybe I didn’t want to talk about with other people because I think it is important to share how you feel so that someone can help you. And that might be professional help; which I sought after my brother passed away.’

Larsson was on international duty for Sweden when he was told of his brother’s death aged 35.

‘I had a period where I was not feeling very good because I had a lot of questions,’ he said. ‘My wife said: “Well, you need to go and talk to someone in order to straighten a few things out”, and I did that. I went to a professional and talked with her about different things and I felt so much better afterwards.

Larsson (bottom) talked about his life, mental health and career in football on Robert Snodgrass (top right) and Kris Boyd’s (top left) The Lockdown Tactics Podcast

Larsson was on international duty for Sweden when he was told of his brother’s death aged 35

‘You have to talk to somebody and open up in order to be able to be rescued because otherwise the ones that are left behind feel guilty about things. [You ask yourself] What could I have done? Could I have been a better listener?

‘There are so many questions. Talk to somebody would be my message.’ 

Addressing podcast co-host Boyd, who lost his brother Scott to suicide, added: ‘And I think that you should talk to somebody too. It’s important.’

As well as discussing mental health issues, Larsson, now 48, was asked by Snodgrass and Boyd about his days as the darling of Celtic Park and the Nou Camp.

‘The players he [Martin O’Neill] signed were real quality,’ he said. ‘Chris Sutton, Alan Thompson, Neil Lennon, just to mention a few.

‘Chris Sutton was the best partner I ever had. A big guy with vision who knew how to play the game. He was totally unselfish.

‘He worked very hard, never stopped running and he could score goals.

Larsson (right) reveals that his best strike partner to play alongside was Chris Sutton (left)

Larsson described Sutton as ‘totally unselfish’ and was ‘easy to play with’ at Celtic Park

‘It was easy to play with him. When he went up for a header, I just had to judge where to run.’

On his shock move to Barcelona aged 32, Larsson added: ‘I said I would like to go play somewhere warm. I was thinking of Spain but never though Barcelona would come in for me.

‘I had grown up watching Romario, [Michael] Laudrup, [Ronald] Koeman. Being able to sign for them was a dream come true.

‘Xavi was good but became even better. [Andres] Iniesta was a young kid. [Lionel] Messi was just a young kid.

Larsson (left) sealed a shock move to Barcelona at the age of 32, where he played alongside the likes of Ronaldinho (centre left), Samuel Eto’o (centre right) and Deco (right)

‘The team we had was just fantastic. Training was unbelievable. Ronaldinho, at the time I hadn’t seen any other player being able to do the things he did with the ball.’

Larsson capped a hugely successful spell in Spain by winning the Champions League against Arsenal.

He added: ‘It was so special. Obviously being in one big final in Seville with Celtic, losing that, that wasn’t a nice experience. I still don’t really enjoy talking about that.

‘But being able to win the final in Paris was great because it’s the biggest club competition you can win. I was so happy I didn’t even have a drink that night, because I wanted to remember it all. I can still remember almost everything.’

He reveals he didn’t drink after winning the Champions League as he wanted to ‘remember it’

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Black Lives Matter: England players to have logo on shirts v West Indies

England will join West Indies in having a Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts for this month’s Tests.

CEO Tom Harrison said the England and Wales Cricket Board “fully support the message that Black Lives Matter” and “there can be no place for racism in society or our sport”.

He added: “Our support of that message is not an endorsement, tacit or otherwise, of any political organisation, nor the backing of any group that calls for violence or condones illegal activity.”

It is understood the England squad will not take a knee before the first Test at the Ageas Bowl next week.

Speaking on behalf of the England players, captain Joe Root said: “It is important to show solidarity to the black community and to raise much-needed awareness around the topics of equality and justice.

“The England players and management are unified in this approach and will use the platform of international cricket to fully support the objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists.”

  • Taking a knee is ‘cosmetic’ – Brathwaite
  • Listen to the latest Stumped podcast

The ECB has taken a similar tone to the Premier League in distancing itself from suggestions it is endorsing a political movement.

The Black Lives Matter movement has led to global protests against racism and police brutality following the death in the United States of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while a police officer knelt on his neck.

The Premier League has shown its solidarity, with players’ names replaced on the back of their shirts with ‘Black Lives Matter’ for the first 12 matches of the restarted season, and a Black Lives Matter badge will feature on all shirts for the rest of the campaign.

But while ‘Black Lives Matter’ has become the slogan behind the protests, Black Lives Matter also exists as a global organisation, founded in 2013, with several goals including to advocate against white supremacy and police violence towards black people.

A series of tweets from the Black Lives Matter UK account about Palestine at the weekend prompted criticism.

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Amir Khan mourns tragic death of newborn nephew with emotional tribute

Boxer Amir Khan has been left mourning the death of his nephew alongside his family.

The newborn child passed away on July 1 with the Olympic medalist posting an emotional message from the burial plot for Abdul, the son of Amir's brother Haroon.

He said: "Tough day for the family. My nephew, son of my brother Haroon Khan passed away yesterday. The new born didn’t make it.

"May Allah make it easy for the family, especially the mother and father, please keep us in your prayers."

Abdul had been born on July 1 but was tragically stillborn.

There had been no issues during pregnancy for Haroon's wife, Arifa, however doctors found issues with the umbilical cord during labour.

Haroon and his wife also have a two-year-old son. Arifa remains in hospital, while the family were able to have a socially-distanced funeral.

Khan says that he has been humbled by the messages of support from fans and well-wishers.

Amir, who has three children himself with wife Faryal Makhdoom, is close with Haroon, 29, who has also been a successful boxer in his own regard.

He has fought seven times as a pro, winning all seven, three by way of knockout.

And like his elder brother he starred as an amateur fighter, taking the bronze medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi at Flyweight – losing out to the eventual gold medalist, Suranjoy Singh.

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He had controversially been overlooked by GB selectors in the build up to 2010, and was banned from representing Pakistan at the 2012 Olympics because he had represented England during his youth.

An appeal to have the ban lifted failed.

His most recent professional fight came in Wigan in 2017, defeating Gyula Dodu via a second round KO.

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Boxer Amir Khan mourns the death of his new born nephew

Boxer Amir Khan mourns the tragic death of his new born nephew as he asks his followers to ‘keep us in your prayers’ in an emotional tribute on social media

  • Boxer Amir Khan is mourning the tragic death of his new born nephew
  • Abdul, the son of Amir’s brother Haroon, passed away after being born on July 1 
  • Khan asked for his followers on social medial to ‘keep us in your prayers’ 

Boxer Amir Khan is mourning the tragic death of his new born nephew.

He posted a picture of himself by the burial plot for Abdul, the son of Amir’s brother Haroon,

Khan wrote on Instagram: ‘Tough day for the family. My nephew, son of my brother Haroon khan passed away yesterday. The new born didn’t make it. 

Amir Khan posted an emotional tribute on social media after his new born nephew died

‘May Allah make it easy for the family, especially the mother and father, please keep us in your prayers.’

Abdul was born on July 1 but tragically passed away on the same day.  

Haroon Khan is also a boxer, who has won all seven of his professional fights. He won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010.

He married Arifa Janjua in Pakistan in 2016. They had their first child together, a baby boy, in 2018. 

The newborn baby who tragically died was the son of Amir Khan’s brother Haroon (right)

Amir Khan married Faryal Makhdoom in 2013. They have three children together – a son, Muhammad, and daughters Alayna and Lamaisah. 

Recently, Khan stressed that he doesn’t want to fight again until fans are allowed to attend.

The 33-year-old hasn’t been in action since July 2019, when he beat Billy Dib in Saudi Arabia. 

He has won 21 of his 34 fights, and held the WBA title from 2009 to 2012 and the IBF title in 2011.

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Chelsea problems Lampard must solve to challenge for Premier League

Chelsea are improving their frontline with Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech on the way but it’s the defence that will give Frank Lampard nightmares… he must sort the lack of leadership and goals conceded from set pieces if they are to battle for the Premier League

  • Frank Lampard has impressed at Chelsea and has an extremely young squad
  • Blues could challenge for the title next season but they have defensive issues
  • They need a leader and are conceding way too many goals from set pieces
  • West Ham defeat showed exactly what Lampard must address over the summer

Chelsea’s maiden season under the stewardship of Frank Lampard has been impressive to say the least, with the Blues on course for a Champions League spot.

While their attacking threat has been impressive, with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham coming to the fore, the club’s defensive capabilities leave a lot to be desired.

As it stands Chelsea sit fourth, battling with Leicester for third spot while the likes of Manchester United and Wolves look to gatecrash the party from below.

Frank Lampard’s Chelsea provided a defensive disasterclass against West Ham on Wednesday

Timo Werner is coming in to boost the Blues’ attacking threat but their defence still needs work

Wednesday night saw Lampard’s side lose ground on the sides around them with a 3-2 defeat at West Ham, courtesy of a whole host of defensive issues that desperately need sorting ahead of next season.

Chelsea’s wealth of young talent means they could feasibly close the gap on Liverpool and Manchester City above them and challenge for the title in the coming seasons, but the Blues’ back-line needs some serious work.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at the problems facing Lampard and what he needs to do to fix them… 

Chelsea let in three goals against West Ham to squander their lead and lose ground on rivals

While the front-line did their bit for the team, all four defenders had nights to forget

West Ham woes

On paper, it all started so well for Chelsea against West Ham as Willian tucked home a penalty just before half-time. In reality, that spot-kick came between a comedy of defensive errors for the Blues.

Just before the opener, West Ham had a dubious goal of their own disallowed when Tomas Soucek beat Cesar Azpilicueta to the ball from a corner. The Spaniard got away with it the first time but just a few minutes later once again the West Ham man got the better of him to head home an equaliser. 

While those defending the Blues captain might point to the height difference between the two players, when it had happened once it is criminal to allow it to occur again, especially with 6″3 Tammy Abraham the spare man on the post.

Later in the game, it was the other full-back’s turn to struggle as the Hammers netted a late winner. Marcos Alonso was attacking with Chelsea as they searched for a late winner themselves, and his speed to track back when the attack broke down was embarrassing. 

Cesar Azpilicueta (second left) lost Tomas Soucek twice on corners and he scored the second

Antonio Rudiger showed Andriy Yarmolenko onto his stronger left foot to let him score winner

As Gary Neville stated on commentary, you ‘learn that at age six’, and his lack of awareness to chase down Andriy Yarmolenko and stop the break was unforgivable. 

Instead, it was left to centre back Antonio Rudiger to defend the substitute, but he allowed him to turn on his stronger left foot and rifle home. Again, it showed a complete lack of awareness in the opposition’s ability, as though the German hadn’t done his research in the build-up to the match.

So, three down – how did the fourth defender Andreas Christensen get on? Arguably just as bad as the others. In fact, he drew specific criticism from pundit Ashley Cole on Sky Sports, with the ex-Chelsea man slamming his lack of awareness.

‘He’s got to recover and block that space,’ he said of the Danish centre back while watching the Hammers’ equaliser to make it 2-2. ‘He recovers too late, he doesn’t see where Antonio is and he’s ball-watching. You’ve got to be able to see the striker out the corner of your eye. He’s done nothing. He left so much space. He has to start realising the danger.’    

So that’s four defenders, and a whole host of mistakes from each of them that resulted in a disastrous 3-2 defeat at the London Stadium. 

Andreas Christensen (right) was nowhere to be seen when Michail Antonio slotted home

Marcos Alonso’s tracking back left plenty to be desired when Yarmolenko broke in injury time

Selection issues

Of course, a bad game against West Ham doesn’t necessarily equal a bad player, and Christensen for example was especially impressive against Manchester City last week. That said, many fans believe the current back four is far from strong.

Earlier in the season, a different centre back pairing of Kurt Zouma and Fikayo Tomori was preferred, while Wednesday night saw Zouma stuck on the bench and Tomori still struggling for match fitness after an injury.

In terms of age, they certainly have youth on their side, with Rudiger the oldest of the four at just 27. Zouma is 25, Christensen 24, and Tomori just 22.

The talent is there, but Lampard does not appear to have a first-choice pairing and has chopped and changed across the season. Back in 2014-15, Gary Cahill played 36 times and John Terry all 38 as the Blues romped to the Premier League title.

The defence needs consistency and Lampard must find his strongest pairing and stick to it next season… whether it’s two of the four mentioned, or by improving his back-line in the transfer market. 

Kurt Zouma (right) was preferred earlier in the season but he is now warming the bench

Fikayo Tomori (right) is another centre back option for Lampard but is currently sidelined

The statistics

Worryingly, Chelsea are near the top of a fair few statistics detailing defensive frailties.

This season, only Norwich (11) have conceded more goals from corners than Chelsea’s nine. Only Norwich (17) and Aston Villa (15) have conceded more goals from crosses than Chelsea’s 10. A reminder that both of those sides look likely to be heading to the Championship come the end of July.

Chelsea are a side that have ambitions of challenging for the league title, yet in some statistics are sandwiched only by relegation fodder.

Some more, you ask? Only Aston Villa (11), Norwich (10) and Wolves (9) have conceded more headed goals than Chelsea’s eight this season. 

Although the presence of another top-half team in this stat will be a welcome sight, they are of course nowhere to be seen near the top of the other lists.

Chelsea are present all-too-often in the lists of negative defensive stats, and Lampard will be well aware that he has to address those issues as a priority in the coming months.

The curious case of Kepa

When Kepa Arrizabalaga signed for Chelsea in a £71million deal back in 2018, plenty was expected from the Spaniard. After a controversial two seasons, his approval ratings are at an all-time low.

The last thing Lampard needs on top of his back-four woes is to have to sign a new goalkeeper, but reports recently have claimed that the Blues will be in the market for a new man when the window opens. 

At 6″1, he is one of the smaller keepers in the Premier League and one of the negative traits held against him is his inability to command his area and come for crosses.

Against West Ham, Blues fans were furious after he looked extremely unconvincing for the Hammers’ first equaliser. As the cross comes in from the near side, Kepa sprints off his line, straight into a wall of bodies, before bouncing back towards his goal-line. It’s too little too late, though, and seconds later he is picking the ball out of the back of his net.

Plenty was expected of Kepa Arrizabalaga when he became the world’s most expensive keeper

Chelsea need a leader like John Terry (above)


As previously mentioned, Terry and Cahill formed a formidable partnership at the heart of the Chelsea defence back in 2015-16, and one huge absence at the back now is the lack of a leader.

Both players marshalled the back-line, ensuring that everybody knew what they were doing, while Petr Cech behind them was no shrinking violet himself.

In the current Chelsea team, the captain is Azpilicueta. Although he has performed well on occasions this season, he brings far fewer qualities to the role than someone like Terry did just a few years ago.

Lampard needs an out-and-out leader in the centre of his defence, to pull the side together and ensure that they are water-tight.

In Christensen and Rudiger they don’t have it, and arguably Zouma and Tomori are also not ready to take the baton. Maybe JT could dig out his boots for one last hurrah?

Gary Cahill was brilliant for the Blues but he is now across London playing for Crystal Palace

Players they could buy 

Given Chelsea’s talented young squad, and with Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner on their way in already this summer, they don’t need to spend a lot of money.

Their attacking threat is more than enough to challenge at the top of the league – but the back-line needs some tweaks to bring them level with some of their rivals.

Ben Chilwell is a potential target that has been spoken about for some time, and he would fill perfectly into the left back slot currently occupied by Marcos Alonso.

Declan Rice is another name being bandied about and he would be perfect for this Chelsea side. Reports have claimed that Lampard wants to turn him into a ball-playing centre back, and he would also bring the leadership qualities desperately needed in this side.

With those two signings to bolster the back-line, plus the additions of Ziyech and Werner in the summer, it would be easy to see Chelsea pushing Liverpool and Manchester City all the way at the top of the Premier League. 

Declan Rice has been linked with a move to Chelsea; he captained West Ham on Wednesday

Ben Chilwell (right) could also boost the Blues’ defence by slotting in at left back next season

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Man City vs Liverpool LIVE: Latest score, goals and updates from Premier League fixture tonight

Liverpool visit Manchester City tonight in the Premier League as the new champions test themselves against the team they dethroned.

City’s defeat by Chelsea last week confirmed Liverpool’s first top-flight title for 30 years, and Jurgen Klopp’s side now have their sights set on breaking City’s record of 100 points in a Premier League season.

Pep Guardiola will have other ideas, however, and his City side can make a big statement with a victory here ahead of next season’s battle for the title. Follow all the action live:

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Jurgen Klopp speaks! “We have to do what we do. We didn’t celebrate for a week or whatever. We had our night. Then we refocus on the Premier League. City, wow, a proper football team, obviously. I don’t think City can play another way, they will play a high level. I expect a very intense game.”

Pep Guardiola speaks! “Life changes week by week. We want to do a good performance against this team, but next season will be different. Bothe teams want to play, to attack. I think it will be a nice game.”

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Sheffield United vs Tottenham LIVE – Latest updates

  • Lawrence Ostlere
  • 2 July 2020 19:49
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When is it and what time is kick-off?

The match will begin at 8.15pm on Thursday 2 July at the Etihad Stadium.

How can I watch it online and on TV?

The match will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Premier League, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Ultra HD.

If you’re not a Sky customer you can grab a NOWTV Day Pass here to watch without a subscription.

Team news

Man City have Sergio Aguero out injured and Fernandinho is suspended after his red card against Chelsea. Eric Garcia remains a doubt.

Liverpool are without Joel Matip for the rest of the season, while James Milner is also a potential absentee. Xherdan Shaqiri is back in training but unlikely to play yet.

Predicted line-ups

Man City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Mendy; Rodri, De Bruyne, D Silva; Mahrez, B Silva, Sterling.

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Fabinho, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.


Man City: 16/11

Draw: 3/1

Liverpool: 5/2

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EFL urge Government not to ban gambling sponsorship

EFL urge Government not to ban gambling sponsorship amid concerns more clubs could go out of business

  • The EFL want the Government to resist the banning of gambling sponsorship  
  • Report says that EFL teams should phase out gambling sponsorship by 2023
  • There are fears that further teams could follow Wigan into administration 

The EFL have urged the Government to resist banning gambling sponsorship for fears it could put more clubs out of business.

A House of Lords select committee on gambling published a major report on Thursday which said that Premier League clubs should not be allowed to have the logos of betting firms on their shirts from next season – and that teams below the top flight should phase such deals out by 2023.

This season, half of the Premier League clubs have gambling companies as their main shirt sponsors, as do 17 of the 24 teams in the Championship, which is also sponsored by Sky Bet.

The English Football League urged the Government to resist banning gambling sponsorship

The Lords report has now been put to the Government, who have promised to review the 2005 Gambling Act. It follows similar recommendations published last month by an influential group of MPs following a year-long inquiry.

However, the EFL are strongly against the proposals given their reliance on money from the gambling sector and the financial crisis already inflicting their clubs – including Wigan, who went into administration this week.

An EFL spokesman said: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic represents perhaps the biggest challenge to the finances of EFL clubs in their history. 

‘With over £40 million a season paid by the sector to the League and its clubs, the significant contribution betting companies make to the ongoing financial sustainability of professional football at all levels is as important now as it has ever been.

Fulham and QPR are among the Championship clubs sponsored by gambling companies

‘The League firmly believes a collaborative, evidence-based approach to preventing gambling harms that is also sympathetic to the economic needs of sport will be of much greater benefit than the blunt instrument of blanket bans.

‘It is our belief that sports organisations can work with Government and the gambling industry to ensure partnerships are activated in a responsible fashion.’

The Premier League, who are less reliant on cash from betting companies, have previously said they will support the Government’s review of the Gambling Act. 

There are concerns that further EFL clubs could follow Wigan by going into administration

The 192-page Lords report also recommends a ban on gambling advertising ‘in or near any sports grounds or sports venues, including sports programmes’.

On shirt sponsorship for EFL clubs, the report says: ‘We think they should be given time, perhaps three years, to adapt to the new situation.

‘They would not be allowed in that time to enter into new sponsorship contracts with gambling companies, but any existing contracts could continue until they terminate and clubs would have time to seek alternative sources of sponsorship.’

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Manchester City vs Liverpool team news: Phil Foden and Eric Garcia start for City vs unchanged champions

Phil Foden will start for Manchester City against Liverpool on Thursday evening, live on Sky Sports, with Eric Garcia also named in the starting XI.

Foden and Garcia come in as two of three changes from the 2-1 defeat at Chelsea last week, with Gabriel Jesus also in for Bernardo Silva. Riyad Mahrez drops to the bench, while Fernandinho is serving the second of his two-match ban for his sending off at Chelsea.

Garcia has been out since suffering a worrying head injury in the win over Arsenal on June 17.

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Newly-crowned champions Liverpool are unchanged from their 4-0 win over Crystal Palace last week.

Joel Matip appeared in the Merseyside derby when Liverpool resumed their season on June 21 but has been sidelined since with a toe problem.

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The teams

Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Laporte, Garcia, Mendy, Gundogan, Rodri, Foden, De Bruyne, Sterling, Jesus

Subs: Bravo, Stones, Zinchenko, Bernardo, David Silva, Mahrez, Cancelo, Otamendi, Doyle

Liverpool: Alisson, Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Gomez, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Fabinho, Henderson, Mane, Salah, Firmino

Subs: Adrian, Milner, Keita, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Minamino, Origi, Jones, Elliott, Williams

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England all-rounder Sam Curran goes into self-isolation

ECB holding its breath after all-rounder Sam Curran goes into self-isolation and takes coronavirus test following bout of vomiting and diarrhea ahead of first West Indies Test next week

  • England all-rounder Sam Curran’s health is said to have improved in the evening
  • But a positive coronavirus test would jeopardise the West Indies Test next week
  • The ECB were tight-lipped about the wider ramifications of a positive result 
  • The next round of coronavirus testing is currently scheduled for Sunday

English cricket is crossing its fingers after all-rounder Sam Curran went into self-isolation and underwent a Covid-19 test following a bout of vomiting and diarrhea inside the team bubble at the Ageas Bowl.

Curran’s health is said to have improved, but a positive result tomorrow would jeopardise England’s preparations for next week’s first Test against West Indies, who have been notified of the development.

The ECB were tight-lipped about the wider ramifications of a positive result, though Curran himself would begin seven days of quarantine, while the next round of testing – currently scheduled for Sunday – would almost certainly be brought forward.

England all-rounder Sam Curran has self-isolated following a bout of vomiting and diarrhea

Curran’s health is said to have improved ahead of the first Test against West Indies next week

All 29 squad members, plus the backroom staff, have been tested three times each since entering Southampton’s biosecure set-up on June 23.

Sources remain hopeful that Curran has succumbed to nothing more serious than a 24-hour bug. But the repercussions of a positive result – with team-mates forced into self-isolation less than a week before the start of the first Test on Wednesday, and inevitable questions about the viability of biosecure sport during a pandemic – do not bear thinking about.

The news overshadowed the second day of England’s practice match, though Somerset off-spinner Dom Bess made his case for inclusion against West Indies with figures of 20-6-60-2 as Ben Stokes’s team were bowled out for 233 in reply to the Jos Buttler XI’s total of 287 for five declared.

Sources are hopeful that Curran has succumbed to nothing more serious than a 24-hour bug

It overshadowed day two of England’s practice match where spinner Dom Bess shone

The 22-year-old Bess, who has played only four Tests, was England’s first-choice spinner during their 3-1 win in South Africa earlier this year, and insisted: ‘I want to push that spot and make it my own. The ball came out of my hand really nicely.’

Kent’s Zak Crawley top-scored with 43 on a sluggish pitch, while Stokes hit an attractive 41, including six over extra cover off Bess, before he was stumped off Lancashire leg-spinner Matt Parkinson. Mark Wood bowled with pace and hostility, while Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson produced a probing spell of 9-4-7-2.

Meanwhile, West Indies captain Jason Holder continued to struggle with the bat when he was dismissed for just two during his team’s rain-affected practice match in Manchester.

Holder, who promoted himself to open in a bid to spend time in the middle, has now scored seven runs in three innings ahead of next week’s first Test. He was watched by coach Phil Simmons, back in the team bubble following five days in self-isolation after he attended a funeral.

Ben Stokes hit an attractive 41 before being stumped off leg-spinner Matt Parkinson

Meanwhile, West Indies captain Jason Holder continued to struggle and made just two 

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