West Brom pays record fee for Dynamo Kiev striker Brown Ideye

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After spending decade bouncing back-and-forth between England’s top two divisions, West Bromwich Albion has enjoyed four straight seasons in the Premier League, a run that nearly came to an end last season. Seemingly determined to avoid another close call, the Baggies have broken their club record transfer fee, albeit for a name few fans may recognize.

That’s because Brown Ideye, a Nigerian striker who helped the Super Eagles claim the 2013 African Cup of Nations, has spent his career in Switzerland, France, and Ukraine, though after three years as one of Dynamo Kiev’s main attackers, the 25-year-old may have popped onto a few radars. A fast, explosive, along-the-line striker, Brown scored 34 league goals over the last three season, half of which came during the 2012-13 season.

For $17.1 million, West Brom is betting the former Sochaux forward can replicate that production in England.

“Brown is a quality striker, and I’m looking forward to working with him,” head coach Alan Irvine said, via the club’s website,

“He’s a strong, quick, powerful player who likes to get in behind defenses and has plenty of Champions League and international experience.”

Most of that experience came before last season, when Brown was reduced to a substitute’s role. After Dynamo’s acquisition of Congolese striker Dieumerci Mbokani from Anderlecht, Ideye went from 25 starts to seven, with 12 appearances off the bench giving him little chance to replicate his 17-goal season.

It’s part of the reason why West Brom’s willingness to set a record for Ideye looks a little curious, though if you’re looking for silver linings, consider the striker’s goal rate. Whereas Ideye averaged 0.674 goals per 90 minutes in 2012-13, his rate only dropped to 0.627 last year. Perhaps his diminished role could save you a few million pounds in the negotiation, but if you liked Ideye a year ago, little about the striker’s 2013-14 numbers should change your view.

Technical director Terry Burton certainly hasn’t changed his:

“When I arrived at Albion the recruitment department flagged Brown up as the man at the top of their wish list.

“It is a fantastic signing because of the quality and the potential of the player.

“I can see that he really wants to be here and that he really wants to be playing in the Premier League.

“He’s a dynamic player who likes to get in behind defenders and he has the pace to do so.

“He gets himself into good scoring positions in the box and if there are opportunities then he will get on the end of them.”

All of which sounds great albeit clichéd, as if Burton is listing off a series of minimum requirements for a Premier League striker. If you’re paying £10 million for an attacker who isn’t “dynamic” or capable of finding “good scoring positions” in Ukraine, you probably shouldn’t be in charge of acquisitions in England.

Despite the flat rhetoric, Brown really could turn into a difference-maker at The Hawthorns. Saying somebody has “pace” sounds clichéd, but in Brown’s case, it’s true, even by Premier League standards. His ability to read defenses, get into those good positions, and score goals a variety ways made him one of the best strikers in Ukraine’s Premier League, when he played. Strong, standing 5’11”, Brown has the size to compete with Premier League defenders. Given how players have performed when making the jump from the Netherlands (Suárez, Bony) or Belgium (Benteke, Lukaku), it’s not unreasonable to assume a talented player moving from a league at a similar level could succeed, too.

Unfortunately, $17.1 million adds a lot of gravity to that educated guess, but joining a team whose leading scorers (Stepháne Sessegnon, Saido Berahino) tallied five goals last season, Ideye doesn’t have to provide an eight-figure return to have an impact with West Brom. Having a mere presence may be enough.

While the price makes this more of a gamble, there’s a lot of room for this purchase to come good.

England squad reconnects with fans with image makeover

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VOLGOGRAD, England (AP) — Whatever happens to England at the World Cup, at least the reception facing the squad should be less brutal than it was in 2014 after its exit following the group stage.’

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For once, the players can’t be accused of hiding away, retreating behind their headphones. The hallmark of England’s preparations for Russia has been shedding the past reticence to engage with the public, a calculated move by the team leadership to reconnect with a public disaffected by years of failure at tournaments and uninspiring performances.

“They appear more relaxed. They appear more normal,” supporter Gavin Hughes said, overlooking the Volgograd Arena where England opens its World Cup campaign against Tunisia on Monday. “They appear human. They are just lads playing football at the end of the day. That’s been the problem in the past. There’s more of a togetherness.”

A defining clip of the 2010 World Cup was Wayne Rooney bellowing down the barrel of a camera after a 0-0 draw with Algeria: “Nice to see your home fans booing you, that’s what loyal support is.”

That disconnect with the public has been bridged by the 23-man squad facing the media in a 45-minute, Super Bowl-style session before leaving for Russia. The English Football Association’s approach is in a marked contrast to club duty where they are largely closeted away, save for appearances with paying broadcasters or often in controlled appearances.

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“We’ve done a lot for the fans on social media so they can see what we are up to, which has not always been the case,” captain Harry Kane said Sunday. “It’s important while we have free time is to try to let the fans know what we are up to.”

The public is seeing a new side of the players. Not only are they more relatable but painted in a more sympathetic light, beyond the caricatures of millionaire mercenaries just chasing more money.

“That connection with the supporters is really important,” coach Gareth Southgate said. “There have been perceptions about our players for a long time … so it’s been really good for our public to see how much it means to the players to play, to see a different side of their personality.”

In a move unthinkable in years gone by, when a since-departed FA official blocked Rooney talking about his Christianity, defender Danny Rose recently opened up on his problems dealing with depression. Publicly praised by Prince William for raising awareness of health issues, Rose realizes how players can use their new platform to show their human side and inspire others.

“A lot of people messaged me to say thank you, that they know someone who is going through this or has been through that and that I’ve helped them and given them the confidence to express themselves,” Rose said. “We have a lot of down time and I’m going to think of something to help others when I get back. I’ve got time to think while I’m here and when I get back from the World Cup about how I can go forward and help people.”

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It’s not just about the players feeding a voracious traveling media pack with material. Kieran Trippier, who is also Rose’s club teammate at Tottenham, told the left back he appeared no longer burdened by a private plight in England’s last World Cup warm-up game.

“I was playing with a bit of freedom,” Rose said of the victory against Costa Rica. “I think he’s got a point.”

Southgate is credited with encouraging the warmer environment, far removed from the controlling regimes under Fabio Capello and Gary Neville, who was Roy Hodgson’s assistant for the dismal 2014 World Cup and 2016 European Championship last-16 humbling to Iceland. A bemusing, running theme in the British papers at Euro 2016 in France was the players’ refusal to divulge any details of a darts tournament. The squad has been overhauled by Southgate and it has even been playing darts with the media at the World Cup base near St. Petersburg.

Southgate has been playing his part, going to fan forums in the buildup to the tournament to recognize the commitment and cost involved watching England abroad.

“Sometimes those really good people who follow us are overlooked at the expense of some who have caused problems in the past,” Southgate said.

Ultimately, results dictate the public mood and England hasn’t won a knockout game at any tournament since 2006.

“It’s about how we perform,” Southgate said, “but there’s a bigger picture.”

WATCH: World Cup, Day 5 — England, Belgium enter the fray

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The weekend might be all but over, but that doesn’t mean that 2018 World Cup action is slowing down anytime soon.

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Monday, in fact, will be quite the opposite, as Group G giants — and a pair of popular dark horse picks — Belgium and England make their debut in Russia, taking on Panama and Tunisia, respectively.

Following Germany’s 1-0 loss to Mexico on Sunday, Group F is currently turned upside down on its head. Sweden and South Korea, who’ll face off in the day’s opener, are even more hopeful now than prior to the start of the tournament.

Below is Monday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Monday, June 18

Group F
Sweden vs. South Korea: Nizhny Novgorod, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group G
Belgium vs. Panama: Sochi, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Tunisia vs. England: Volgograd, 2 p.m. ET –LIVE COVERAGE

Petkovic: Time to “take Switzerland seriously” after Brazil draw

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While much of the talk about Sunday’s 1-1 draw between Brazil and Switzerland will focus on the former, the Swiss would like their share of credit for frustrating — and matching — one of a handful of favorites to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic is chief among those who believe it’s time those on the outside “start taking notice of us and taking us seriously.” As for the insinuations that his side roughed up Neymar, who suffered 10 of the 19 fouls committed by Switzerland, most of them were “very clean” — quotes from the BBC:

“Sometimes if there is a lack of recognition that is a pity because we have played very well. We showed and demonstrated that this team always believes in itself and can achieve results.

“Most of the duels (with Neymar) were won in a very clean way. It was one of the key ingredients to neutralize Neymar.”

“I’m very proud and pleased with the discipline with the way we played. We worked collectively and cohesively.”

“When we are able to play forward and press higher up we were able to do it well and it is an excellent starting position for the rest of our group matches.

“We had real difficulties in the first 40 minutes, I said ‘let’s remain calm, focused and believe in ourselves, push up higher up the pitch and create opportunities to score.'”

Having secured a point in far and away their toughest group game, Switzerland now have eminently winnable games against Serbia (Friday) and Costa Rica (Wednesday, June 27) remaining. Four points from those two games would just about guarantee progression to the knockout rounds.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 2

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Layla Anna-Lee has a new show and, well, it’s unbiased. At least occasionally…

In the second episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Layla Anna-Lee looks at the best moments from the first set of matches in the 2018 World Cup.

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There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.