Allardyce poised for FA talks

Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce is set for talks with the FA over becoming the next manager of the England national team, following the recent departure of Roy Hodgson.

Hodgson left his post after the Three Lions crashed out of Euro 2016 at the hands of Iceland, leaving the FA to try and find a successor before the World Cup qualifiers get under way in early September.

And the vastly experienced Allardyce has emerged as the leading candidate, with the Black Cats confirming that they have given permission for their man to hold talks with the Football Association.

A statement from Sunderland confirmed: "The Football Association contacted Sunderland AFC to seek permission to speak with our manager as part of what was supposed to be a confidential discussion process with potential candidates for the position of England manager.

"At Sam Allardyce’s request, we agreed to this.

"Sam is very much key to our plans. After what was an extremely challenging season, we are keen to see a period of stability, both on and off the field, and we want him to remain as manager of our football club.

"The ongoing speculation over Sam’s position is extremely damaging to Sunderland AFC, particularly at this crucial time of the season and we urge the FA to respect the disruption that this process is causing and bring about a swift resolution to the matter."

Allardyce helped Sunderland avoid relegation from the Premier League last season, having previously enjoyed spells in charge of West Ham, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers.

Meanwhile, England are priced at 20/1 to win the 2018 World Cup, with hosts Russia 40/1 and holders Germany 5/1.

England have been drawn in qualifying Group F, along with Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

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Willian keen for more trophies

Brazilian midfielder Willian is eyeing up more silverware after signing an extended contract to tie him to Chelsea until the summer of 2020.

The 27-year-old joined the Blues in the summer of 2013 from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala and has since scored 19 goals in 139 appearances in all competitions.

The South American helped the Stamford Bridge outfit to Premier League glory in 2014/15, while the Blues also won the League Cup during the same season.

Last term Willian was named as Player of the Year at Chelsea and wants to maintain his fine form into the coming seasons and help his side challenge for major honours once again.

He told the club's official website: "I'm very happy to sign a new contract with Chelsea. It's a dream to continue with this club and over the next four years I will try to help the team win more trophies.

"It's been an amazing time for me since I joined the club three years ago, I have won titles and last season I was named Chelsea Player of the Year.

"I hope to be able to stay at that level during the coming seasons and achieve more success."

Willian and the rest of the Blues squad will be under the charge of new head coach Antonio Conte next season, with the Italian having agreed to take charge of Chelsea shortly before he led his country into Euro 2016.

He has already made one major move into the transfer market, with Belgium international striker Michy Batshuayi having moved to England from Marseille.

Chelsea can be backed at 1/250 to be crowned Premier League champions next season, while they are 1/3 to lift the FA Cup and 1212/1 to win the League Cup.

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Rodgers warns against panic talk

Celtic head coach Brendan Rodgers insisted that there was no reason to panic after his first game in charge of the Bhoys ended in an ignominious defeat.

The Scottish champions lost 1-0 in Gibraltar to Lincoln Red Imps in their Champions League second qualifying round first leg, but Rodgers attempted to play down the magnitude of the setback, insisting that the second leg at Parkhead will be very different.

He told reporters: "Over the course of the two games if we didn't get through I'd be concerned. We have to put it right in the next game. We're making no excuses – we'll be fine for the second game.

"There's no panic. We've got enough quality here to get through to the next round. It's a two-legged affair, our objective is to get through.

"The message (to the fans) is to stay calm. I always felt this qualification phase would be based on the second legs at home and we'll need their support.

"We've given ourselves a bit of work to do. I saw enough from the game – we created enough to go through.

"There's no embarrassment. We never took our chances and they took theirs. The second leg will be different."

Rodgers has a week to prepare his players to turn the tie around in front of their own fans, while Celtic start the defence of their Scottish Premiership title at Hearts on Saturday 7th August.

The Bhoys can be backed at 1/5000 to win a sixth straight league title, with Rangers priced at 200/1 and Aberdeen available at 500/1.

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Low stays on for World Cup bid

Joachim Low has confirmed that he will stay on as Germany head coach for the team's bid to retain the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

The 56-year-old, who was appointed exactly 10 years ago to the day having succeeded Jurgen Klinsmann following the World Cup on home soil that summer, had taken Germany to the final of Euro 2008, third place at the 2010 World Cup and the Euro 2012 semi-finals before lifting the World Cup in Brazil two years ago.

Low's contract still had two years remaining on it to take him up until after the World Cup in two years, but there were suggestions that he could step down after the side lost to France in the last-four of the recent European Championship.

However, Low has now confirmed that, following talks with DFB president Reinhard Grindel, he will be staying on until the end of his existing contract.

"We were all obviously disappointed after the semi-final, the weeks before and during the tournament were good," Low said on dfb.de.

"Despite our disappointment the team did not disappoint, we were the youngest team in the tournament.

"I see still great potential, I am sure they will give us much pleasure.

"My ambition still remains high and that is to work with those players and to develop them with a view to the 2018 World Cup in Russia."

Grindel added: "For us it was a matter of respect to let the national coach, after such an intense tournament, have a few days of rest to analyse the events, but we never had a doubt that he would continue.

"We would like to continue with determination and seek to defend the title at the 2018 World Cup as a large, common goal."

Germany, who are 5/1 to retain the World Cup in Russia, are 1/200 to win their qualifying Group C that contains the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino.

Owls urged to make brisk start

Barry Bannan has urged his Sheffield Wednesday team-mates to start the new Championship campaign in style.

The Owls were beaten less than two months ago by Hull City at Wembley in the Championship play-off final but former Aston Villa midfielder Bannan is keen to erase the memory of that disappointment as soon as possible and build on the positives the players can take from last season.

The Scotland international said: "We've got to look past it (the final) now. It's gone and there's a big season coming up for us to look forward to.

"You obviously think about it for a little while but then you've got to clear it from your mind because you are coming back for a fresh season and starting again."

The 26-year-old added: "We never really turned up (at Wembley). We worked hard and tried hard, but we never got going. Nerves didn't play any part. We just didn't deliver. In games like that you need to bring your A game to Wembley and we never did that."

Sheffield Wednesday can be backed at 7/4 to be promoted from the Championship in the 2016/17 campaign, while Aston Villa are 4500/1 to go up, Derby County 4500/1 and Norwich City 4500/1.

Puel snaps up Hojbjerg

The turnover of players at Southampton this summer has continued with the arrival of Denmark international Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich.

Claude Puel was named as the Saints' new first-team manager a fortnight ago following Ronald Koeman's departure to Everton and he is keen to nurture young talent at St Mary's.

Southampton have also signed Nathan Redmond from Norwich City this summer while high-profile trio Sadio Mane, Victor Wanyama and Graziano Pelle have all left the club since the end of last season.

Southampton have qualified for the Europa League after finishing sixth in the Premier League last term and will enter the competition at the group stage

"I don't try to speak about myself but in football I like having the ball and I like fighting on the pitch for my team," said Hojbjerg.

"I feel that it's a team that sticks together in bad and good times because I think that you can only be good if the whole team succeeds. This is what I am as a player, I work hard, I'm serious, I'm reliable, I'm loyal and I like winning.

"For me, winning is what makes the difference from good players to big players, it's how much you win and what you want to win.

"I want to do my best and want to be a part of the team and part of the Southampton family because I really have a good feeling and I can't wait until the training and for the new season to start."

Southampton can be backed at 1000/1 to finish in the Premier League's top six again in 2016/17 while they are 4/5 to beat Watford on the opening weekend of the campaign on 13th August.

Gunners facing Ramsey absence

Aaron Ramsey could miss the start of Arsenal's Premier League season as he is set to enjoy a break following Wales' Euro 2016 campaign.

The 25-year-old midfielder played an integral part in helping Chris Coleman's side reach the semi-finals of the European Championship in France, but was suspended for Wednesday's 2-0 defeat against Portugal in Lyon which ended their dreams of securing a place in Sunday's final.

Ramsey will now be given a few weeks' break to recharge his batteries and is not due to return to Arsenal until the start of August.

That would give him just under a fortnight to be ready for the Gunners' televised Premier League curtain-raiser against Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday 14th August.

Therefore it is likely that Ramsey will miss the game just like Mesut Ozil, Per Meresacker and Lukas Podolski sat out of the Gunners' opening two matches of the 2014-15 season after they had helped Germany lift the World Cup in Brazil that summer.

He said in the Evening Standard: "I am back on 1st August, so I have a few weeks off but, obviously, it kicks off a couple of weeks afterwards.

"A few years ago, Germany won the World Cup and the German players came in just a few days before the first game of the season, but they missed that.

"[Arsene Wenger] does like to give players a little break and I'll be getting the same treatment. I feel I need a few weeks off now."

Arsenal, who are 2000/1 to win the Premier League next season, are 7/4 to defeat Liverpool in their opening match. Jurgen Klopp's side are 17/10 to win and the draw is 12/5.

Mkhitaryan backed for dual role

New signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan is expected to make a big impact for Manchester United next season in terms of both creating and scoring goals.

The 27-year-old Armenia international forward has moved to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund on a four-year contract, becoming the third major signing for the Red Devils this summer, with Villarreal defender Eric Bailly and Paris St Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic already recruited.

And United boss Jose Mourinho has no doubts that his latest new boy will bring a much-needed eye for goal and a creative spark to his side next term..

He told the club's official website: "Henrikh is a very talented footballer who has been in such prolific form for both his club and his country. He is a real team player with great skill, vision and also has a good eye for goal.

"I believe he will make an impact on the team very quickly as his style of play is suited to the Premier League.

"He is a fantastic player and what I like more is something that is undeniable, which is the number of goals that he scores by not being a striker. His number of goals per season is really high for somebody that is not a striker.

"The number of assists is also very clear, because it shows clearly his creativity, his vision and his concept of collective play."

Mkhitaryan scored 23 goals in 88 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund in his three seasons at the Westfalenstadion, while he has netted 19 times in 59 internationals for Armenia and is his country's all-time leading goalscorer.

United can be backed at 4500/1 to win the Premier League next season, while they are 8/1 to lift the FA Cup and 1000/1 to secure a top-four finish in the league.

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Leeds seal Roofe deal

Leeds United boss Garry Monk has continued his rebuilding work with the signing of Oxford United striker Kemar Roofe on a four-year deal.

The former Swansea chief snapped up Matt Grimes on a season-long loan from his former club, while ex-England international goalkeeper Robert Green also penned a one-year deal at Elland Road on Wednesday to add to the earlier arrivals of Marcus Antonsson, Kyle Bartley and Hadi Sacko.

However Monk has now splashed out around £3million to sign highly-rated, Roofe, who was named the League Two Player of the Year last season after scoring 26 goals in 49 appearances to help the U's seal promotion to League One.

The 23-year-old is delighted to join the new era at Leeds and is hopeful of helping the Yorkshire outfit achieve some success in the Championship next term.

"It's an amazing feeling," Roofe told the club's website. "I don't think I'll actually realise how big the club is until the first game of the season, but I'm amazed by what I've seen so far.

"As soon as I found out, I was really pleased to be a part of a club like this. The club has a great history and a bright future as well.

"You can tell there's something exciting happening here with the signings we're making – they're all good signings.

"I can't wait to start getting to know the squad and playing football again."

Leeds are 20/1 to be promoted next season, while they are 4500/1 to win the Championship.

Reddy expects keeper battle

Liam Reddy is prepared to fight for the first-choice goalkeeper's role at Perth Glory, after signing for Kenny Lowe's side.

The 34-year-old has become the first A-League player to sign for a seventh different A-League club, but he's not expecting Lowe to simply hand a starting spot to him, with both Jordan Thurtell and Nic Feely set to challenge.

Since Reddy signed for Newcastle Jets 11 years ago, he's racked up 196 A-League appearances.

Only two goalkeepers have played more games in the domestic competition than that – Danny Vukovic, who is the league's record holder with 250, and Eugene Galekovic whose 230th match came in Adelaide United's Grand Final win last season.

Reddy said: "I don't think anyone walks in to anywhere as number one. The squad's got a lot of depth and from day one from pre-season we're fighting for that first game of the season."

Lowe released veteran Ante Covic at the end of last season and his back-up Jerrad Tyson also left at the end of his contract.

The Glory, who are 10/1 to win the Grand Final, handed Thurtell a one-year contract extension and also brought in fellow WA stopper Feely to battle for the keeper's jersey.

Reddy said: "Nothing is given to you, so I'll be working hard to prove myself to be number one.

"I think the club tried very hard to get WA boys back here, which is another great thing the club is trying to do and for me to come over here and help that, it's very attractive to do."

Reddy left Central Coast in acrimonious circumstances midway through last season and signed with Western Sydney until the end of the campaign, clocking up six appearances for Tony Popovic's side.

Besides signing Reddy and Feely, the Glory have brought in four more players during the close season.

Rhys Williams has signed from Middlesbrough, who are 1/2000 to be relegated from the Premier League, and fellow Socceroos midfielder Chris Herd joined as a free agent.

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