Awford snubs Pompey job offer
Wed, 01 May 2013 19:28:00
Fenerbahce striker Moussa Sow believes it will be a huge boost for Turkish football if the club can reach the Europa League final.
Only once before has a team from Turkey won a major European competition, Fenerbahce's bitter rivals Galatasaray tasting UEFA Cup success in 2000 following a penalty shootout win over Arsenal.
Benfica stand between Fener and a place in the final in Amsterdam, with the Istanbul side going into Thursday's second-leg clash in Lisbon with a 1-0 advantage.
And progression would complete an impressive season for Turkish clubs in Europe after Gala reached the Champions League quarter-finals.
"It's something massive for the club to be in the Europe League semi-final," Sow, who has excelled in Turkey since his move from Lille in January last year, told uefa.com.
"Right now we are achieving something huge. We're in the semi-finals, we're about to face Benfica and for the club, for the fans, for Turkey, it's something exceptional.
"We will do everything to reach the final and why not win the trophy?"
Fener, who upset the odds to defeat Lazio in the quarter-finals, would dearly love to follow in the footsteps of city rivals Gala by gaining European success.
"It would mean a lot (to win)," Sow, 27, added. "A Turkish club has already won the Europa League so why not Fenerbahce this time?
"I am dreaming a lot, but first of all we have Benfica and we will take it step by step. But it's true that I think about it a bit."
Fener won 2-1 at home to Kayserispor in the Super Lig at the weekend to keep the domestic title race just about alive, although Gala are all but home and dry, holding a seven-point lead with three games remaining.
Senegal international Sow's form has been key to their efforts, with 15 goals in 28 league appearances, and he revealed he is loving life in Turkey.
"People really love football (in Istanbul), they live for football," he added.
"You can see it in everyday life. When I go for a walk or for dinner, I see that people love football and support us. They are true football fans, you can feel it and it's a great thing."
David Luiz's stoppage-time free-kick in Switzerland last week earned Chelsea, last season's Champions League winners, a 2-1 first-leg advantage in their Europa League semi-final with the Swiss champions ahead of Thursday's return at Stamford Bridge.
"It's going to be a dangerous game," Mata said.
"Even though we have two goals away, a great result, it's that kind of game that can be very risky.
"If we don't go into the game thinking about winning, thinking about defending well, thinking about trying to win again, it's going to be difficult.
"We still know we have to fight if we're going to be in the final.
"We got a great result in Switzerland, but now we have to play another 90 minutes and I'm sure they're not going to give up.
"They're a team who try until the end. It will be tough, for sure."
Basle have recorded numerous upsets en route to their first European semi-final, advancing at the expense of Zenit St Petersburg and Tottenham, and have proven their ability to surprise.
The winners will face either Fenerbahce or Benfica in the May 15 final in Amsterdam and Chelsea interim boss Rafael Benitez is taking nothing for granted despite his side's commanding position.
"We have an opportunity, but my concern is we'll be thinking we're in the final - it's not the case," Benitez said.
"We'll play against a very good team, a team that has scored goals away, so everybody has to realise it will be tough, it will be difficult.
"I think they will come trying to score. They did it against Tottenham.
"I'm sure they will be offensive, they will push. They will try to score because it's the only way for them to qualify.
"I am concerned, but I'm not afraid. We know it's a dangerous team.
"We're so close to the final we have to be really focused, concentrated and not make mistakes. I have a lot of confidence in my players."
Benitez does not intend to think too far ahead, meaning Luiz is among those who could play despite the fact if he receives a yellow card he would be suspended and miss the final.
Ashley Cole is banned on Thursday, while his fellow left-back Ryan Bertrand and midfielders John Obi Mikel and Ramires, who came off midway through the first half of Sunday's win over Swansea with a dead leg, are also on yellow cards.
Frank Lampard, who requires one goal to equal Bobby Tambling's club goalscoring record of 202, is in line to start, as is John Terry.
If the captain does play, it will be his third successive start for the first time in 2013.
Chelsea's task is complicated by the need to qualify for next season's Champions League through the Barclays Premier League.
Currently the Blues sit third ahead of Sunday's match at champions Manchester United and next week's crucial London derby with Tottenham, who sit three points behind in fifth.
Mata said: "Our aims have to be winning this trophy and obviously being in the Champions League next season.
"Chelsea is a club which deserves to be in the Champions League every season.
"We can do it. If we play like we've been playing, all together, I think we can do both."
Chelsea began the season in contention for seven trophies; the Europa League is the unexpected eighth.
Since Chelsea suffered the ignominy of becoming the first holders to exit the Champions League at the group stage, Mata says the focus has been on the second-tier European competition.
"Every time I watch a game on the TV from the Champions League I think it's a shame," he said.
"But, on the other hand, I'd rather be positive and think we have the chance to win another trophy, as we did last season.
"Now we have another chance."
Ahead of Chelsea's fourth semi-final of the season - they lost to Swansea in the Capital One Cup, Manchester City in the FA Cup and were beaten in the Club World Cup final by Corinthians - Mata is determined to complete the season with silverware.
"For the team and for the club it's very important to have the chance to be in another European final," Mata said.
"After winning the Champions League last season we have the chance to be in another final, trying to win another trophy, which will be new for the club.
"It means a lot for the club, for the supporters, for the players."
Alan Sheehan, Jeff Hughes, Yoann Arquin, Joss Labadie, Haydn Hollis, Curtis Thompson, Tyrell Waite and Greg Tempest have all been offered new terms having reached the end of their current deals.
Julian Kelly, Hamza Bencherif, Liam Mitchell and Jake Wholey will not be offered new terms and will leave Meadow Lane along with Alan Judge, who confirmed last weekend that he would not be signing a new contract with the Magpies.
The club have yet to make a decision on Gavin Mahon and Krystian Pearce, with any new offer for them dependent on budget and transfer targets that boss Chris Kiwomya has identified.
Youth-team players Kyle Dixon, Romello Nangle and Malachi Lavelle-Moore were offered professional contracts on Monday.
Murphy capped a superb personal season by earning a place in the PFA League One team of the year, an accolade that comes on the heels of his excellent goal in Alex's 2-0 Johnstone's Paint Trophy triumph against Southend at Wembley.
Such performances have made the 23-year-old a sought-after prospect and he is tipped to follow former team-mates Nick Powell and Ashley Westwood in making a high-profile move.
Powell and Westwood starred in the Railwaymen's League Two promotion campaign last term before earning respective summer switches to Aston Villa and Manchester United.
Davis accepts his skipper could well go the same way but does not want any deal to run close to the August transfer deadline, as was the case with Westwood eight months ago.
"He has another year on his contract and I think he'd be happy to see that through as captain and try to get us into the next league," he told the Crewe Chronicle.
"Luke is quite chilled out. He is not desperate to go, he loves the club and he knows if he does well enough he will go anyway.
"I've spoken to the chairman and nothing has happened. That said, it was the same with Ashley Westwood this time last year and he left five games into the new season.
"If Luke was to leave I'd prefer it to be sorted earlier than that so I can get a replacement in."
The 29-year-old joined the Red Devils in January from Brighton and went on to score three goals in 21 appearances for Richie Barker's side.
Barker attempted to persuade the former Scunthorpe man to remain at the Broadfield Stadium but revealed that the negotiations were unsuccessful.
"We have been talking to Matt for a while and at the outset we agreed a time frame for the discussions so everyone knew where they stood," Barker told the club's official website.
"We have reached that time and unfortunately we haven't been able to reach an agreement so Matt is moving on.
"I would like to thank him for his services since he came to the club. He is a model professional and we wish him all the best for his future career."
The 40-year-old has decided to return to his position as Academy manager after spending the last six months helping out Guy Whittingham with the first team.
Awford felt his talents were more suited to developing youngsters rather than helping coach the senior players.
"It was a really tough decision, but a lot of hard work has gone into the Academy over the last two-and-a-half years and that's not something I want to give up," he told the club's official website.
"I'm really proud of what we've achieved and I want to see the job through. The Academy staff deserve enormous credit for their fantastic work over the past couple of seasons.
"I've loved working with the first team and it was a big learning curve for me to deal with seasoned professionals.
"It was an exciting venture and one I enjoyed thoroughly, especially towards the end of the season when we were more settled.
"But now there's an opportunity to rebuild this football club and I feel proud and privileged to be a part of that."
Pompey boss Whittingham added: "I totally understand and respect his decision. He has put a lot of effort into the Academy here.
"It's important for this football club that Andy and all of the Academy staff know what is needed to produce players for the first team."