Everton’s new badge draws ire of supporters

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Gross. Hideous. Tragic.

These are only a few of the words that describe Everton’s newly designed badge (pictured, at right), which has come under heavy criticism by fans of one of English football’s founding members.

The original badge, created by club secretary Theo Kelly in 1938, featured a tower wrapped by a fence line. Over the years the fence line has disappeared and each adaptation has included additional towers, wreaths and the club motto, Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (“nothing but the best is good enough”). The new creation is the first in Everton history with just one of those defining characteristics (the tower).

The current design, released yesterday, has removed all of these iconic symbols but for a single, plain tower. The biggest complaint concerns the removal of the wreaths and the motto, aspects that the club – in a meeting between Everton and their Shareholders’ Association- described as signifying heritage, history and tradition. The decision to keep the club’s founding date (1878) and the word “Everton”, have been kept as the club pursues new marketing directives.

Fans, however, see the club’s marketing goals as being strong evidence of a club that’s growing increasingly out of touch with its fan base. Making matters worse, Everton’s official site claims that the new “modern” design was allegedly created “following an extensive consultation process with fans, supporters’ groups and branding experts,” which includes Season Ticket Holders, Supporters’ Club officials, Corporate Members, Shareholders, fans from the Everton Disabled Supporters Association, Nike and Kitbag.

This claim has drawn the massive ire of the fans who, upon the leak earlier this spring, voiced strong opposition to the badge’s comical nature. Disregarding these opinions, the club nevertheless released the new badge. Since the unveiling more than 10,000 supporters have taken to a vote over fansite Toffeeweb with 91% disliking the new design (64% hating it, 27% did not liking it, 7% liking it and 2% loving it).

And while rumors exist that the club may be open to new changes, it’s highly unlikely anything will change before next season as the new shirts and merchandise have already been ordered.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the design in the poll below, comments, and/or by sending the club a message over Twitter @Everton.

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

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Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out:

Champions League last 16 draw sets up huge clashes

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The Round of 16 draw for the UEFA Champions League did not disappoint.

[ MORE: Champions League schedule

We have some monster clashes with Chelsea facing Barcelona, once again, and the reigning champs Real Madrid paired with the favorites Paris Saint-Germain.

With five Premier League teams remaining, Tottenham have been handed a tough draw against Italian champions Juventus who were also runners up in the UCL last season, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool will all be rather happy with their draws.

United have been drawn against Spanish side Sevilla, Liverpool will face FC Porto and Man City clash with Basel.

Below is the draw in full, while UEFA has also released the schedule for the games with Man City, Spurs, Liverpool and Man United all playing their second legs at home.