Villa Park prepared for play-off
Fri, 17 May 2013 18:40:00
Celtic manager Neil Lennon may rest a number of players for Sunday's final game of the SPL season away to Dundee United as he looks to keep his players fresh for the Scottish Cup final with Hibernian.
He also has injury problems to overcome, with defender Charlie Mulgrew ruled out with a knee injury.
Right-back Adam Matthews is a major doubt as he is struggling with a knock, while striker Lassad Nouioui remains on the sidelines with a calf injury.
United striker Johnny Russell looks likely miss out as he is still suffering from some stiffness having recently returned from a broken leg.
Long-term absentees Gavin Gunning and Sean Dillon remain on the sidelines.
But Keith Watson and Barry Douglas could feature at Tannadice Park after injury to boost manager Jackie McNamara.
The SPL board will meet to determine whether Hearts should face sanctions over the apparent financial collapse of their majority shareholder, UBIG.
The club could still face an 18-point deduction - and instant relegation - if it is decided that SPL rules have been breached by UBIG's declaration of insolvency.
UBIG was on Thursday listed on a Lithuanian government website of insolvent firms after reportedly declaring itself unable to meet its liabilities.
The firm owns about four-fifths of shares in Hearts and SPL rules can lead to points deductions if an owner suffers an insolvency event.
The SPL has been consulting with its lawyers over its rules and whether UBIG's action breaches them.
The league has made no comment but it is understood the timing of events will be crucial - if the developments of the last two days are deemed to be an insolvency event which breaks the SPL rules, then the punishment will be a points deduction this season.
However, court action is needed to trigger an insolvency event in Scotland and the lack of news about any court proceedings in Lithuania could work in Hearts' favour.
The relationship between UBIG and Hearts will also come into consideration. The club will argue that they have been self-sufficient since early last year so have not benefited from the funding of an insolvent company this season. However, they owe UBIG about ?10million of their ?25million debt.
The cost-cutting measures continued at Tynecastle this week when 19-year-old right-back Fraser Mullen was told he would not be offered a new contract in the summer despite making eight appearances this season before a broken foot ended his season in March.
But Hearts midfielder Jason Holt insists his former youth-team colleague will have no trouble picking up a new club.
He said: "It's disappointing as Fraser is a good mate of mine. We came through the youth team together but it's not my decision, that's down to the club.
"I spoke to him the day he found out. It's one of those ones that he just needs time to take it in. He's a good lad and I'm sure he will not be short of offers.
"He's a good player so I hope he does go on to bigger and better things once he's fit again from his injury."
Holt and fellow Gorgie youngsters Callum Tapping, Jamie Walker and Kevin McHattie have all made the most of the club's financial strains to grab first-team slots.
The club could yet put even more focus on their younger recruits amid fresh concerns that developments in Lithuania could force the club into administration.
But Holt knows such a crisis could yet open the door for other youngsters, just as the 20-year-old found this term with 21 first-team run-outs.
"Being a young boy growing up watching Hearts and going to the games, it's a dream now getting the chance to play for the team," Holt said.
"It's been a massive season for us young lads coming through. We knew that for a lot of us it would be a chance for us to make the breakthrough.
"I've managed to get a decent number of games under my belt. Next season I'm looking to push on with a good pre-season under my belt and make it a better one than my first.
"I've grown up a lot this year. Everyone will tell you that when you move into first-team football that happens. You are dealing with older people and the experience aspect comes into it. There is a lot of pressure on your shoulders and you have to deal with it."
Hearts round off their season with a trip to Aberdeen tomorrow but last week's Edinburgh derby defeat to Hibs is still painfully fresh in Holt's mind.
Holt said: "Sunday's defeat was a massive blow for me and everyone at the club, the fans as well. The players know we weren't good enough and we will be looking to put the right next season.
"It felt worse than losing the cup final. Both were huge blows but on Sunday it was an Edinburgh derby, both sets of fans were there and we just didn't perform well enough on the day. It's really disappointing because we let ourselves and the fans down."
Moyes, who is leaving the Merseyside outfit this summer after over 11 years in charge to replace the retiring Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, has made it clear he is happy to offer Toffees chairman Bill Kenwright assistance in the search for a new manager at Goodison Park.
Among those being linked with the job are Alan Stubbs, David Weir and Duncan Ferguson - all former Everton players that are presently part of the backroom team.
And asked today if he would recommend members of that team to Kenwright, Moyes said: "I would always recommend the people who are around me.
"A lot of them know how the workings of the building (at the training ground) are, how we move things forward and the restraints the club has, so it is easy for them to deal with that.
"We (Moyes and Kenwright) speak a couple of times on the phone, and if he has anything to say or wants me to help him, I will do so."
The 50-year-old stressed his confidence that Kenwright will "get it right" when he appoints the new manager, and Moyes added: "I think continuity at every club is important.
"You can't always just have a complete clean slate and start again.
"But these are questions you need to wait to ask the chairman about when the time comes."
Kenwright vowed at Everton's end of season awards ceremony last night that Moyes' work at the club would not be allowed to go to waste, saying of the Scot: "When he came to me, when we first met on my sofa 11 years ago, he said, 'chairman, you're not going to go down.'
"Well, we didn't go down and he's kept us there (in the Premier League) and taken us forward.
"And although we will miss him like there's no tomorrow, I promise you David, we will maintain what you have started. I personally will not let you down."
Another name that has been mentioned in relation to the Everton post is that of current captain Phil Neville, who reports have suggested Kenwright wants to be part of the new management structure.
There has also been talk of Moyes taking Neville with him to United - the club the 36-year-old defender departed for Goodison Park in 2005. Neville announced last month that his career as a Toffees player would not extend beyond this season, and he will be on the England Under-21s coaching team at the European Championships in Israel this summer.
Moyes - speaking this afternoon at a press conference to preview his last match as Everton manager, Sunday's Barclays Premier League trip to Chelsea - said of Neville: "He is a great man. He is someone who has been a great player and is a great ambassador for the club.
"If Phil Neville could take a job up anywhere...he is really, really good at what he does, he is going through his coaching badges just now and he would be a good choice for any club."
Moyes - today once again not taking questions on United, as has been the case since it was confirmed last week that he will be succeeding Ferguson - also confirmed that Neville has already played his final game for Everton, with him not being fit enough to feature in Sunday's contest.
Neville misses out due to the knee problem that has been sidelining him recently, while a knee complaint will also prevent midfielder Leon Osman from being involved.
Everton, consistent top-eight finishers under Moyes, go into the game knowing they cannot be moved from sixth spot.
The move by the Premier League could jeopardise the Blues' tour match against Manchester City in the USA scheduled for the day before.
The play-off will only take place if results on Sunday mean the two London clubs are equal on points, goal difference and goals scored.
A Premier League statement said: "Should a play-off be necessary the Premier League has made arrangements for a single match to take place at Villa Park on Sunday 26 May 2013.
"The match will take place early afternoon with a kick-off time to be confirmed should results require the match to go ahead."
Chelsea are due to play City twice in the USA - with the second match at New York's Yankee stadium on May 25, the day before the play-off date.
The Premier League statement says both the clubs have been consulted.
It states: "In the event of results in the Chelsea v Everton and Newcastle v Arsenal Barclays Premier League matches being a Chelsea draw, and an Arsenal win by a single-goal margin having scored two more than Chelsea, both teams would be level on points, goal difference and goals scored.
"Under Premier League Rules this would lead to a play-off being required to decide which club finishes third and fourth, thereby determining which club enters the UEFA Champions League at the group stage and which at the play-off stage."
The Premier League has consulted with the two clubs throughout the process of planning for this potential match with all parties in agreement that, should it be required, it should take place as soon as possible after the end of the season.
"Discussions with London-based stadia did take place as part of that process but limited availability and calendar restrictions, combined with wanting to use a large capacity ground that has experience in organising and delivering neutral matches, meant Villa Park was the most suitable choice.
"Tickets will be allocated equally between each club and will be priced at ?20 and ?30 with concessions for children and senior citizens priced at a 50% reduction.