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‘Prototype’ Pickford reshaping opinions of English GKs

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SAMARA, Russia (AP) — It was just about the only thing Jordan Pickford got wrong all game.

“It was a daft injury by myself,” the England goalkeeper recounted. “I went to punch the (ground) and ended up punching my knee and hurt my thumb. It was a bit of anger. But I’m a man, not a mouse. I’m fine and I’ll live another day, won’t I?”

[ VIDEO: England fans celebrate World Cup win over Sweden at IKEA ]

Pickford left Samara Stadium on Saturday with a heavily bandaged left hand, a glass vase to commemorate a player-of-the-match performance in England’s World Cup quarterfinal win over Sweden, and with his new-found status as the pride of a nation.

The global reputation of English goalkeepers has taken a battering in recent years but Pickford is reshaping opinions with his standout performances in England’s surprising run to the World Cup semifinals in Russia.

Four days after being England’s penalty-shootout star against Colombia in the round of 16, the 24-year-old Pickford produced three brilliant, one-handed saves in a 2-0 win over Sweden to ensure his team ultimately enjoyed smooth progress to a last-four match against Croatia.

The only previous England goalkeepers to appear on such a stage were Gordon Banks — the World Cup winner from 1966 — and Peter Shilton, a veteran of 125 international caps who was 40 when he played in the 1990 World Cup semifinal loss to West Germany.

[ ENGLAND: Why they’ll win the World Cup ]

They are England’s two greatest goalkeepers. The way Pickford’s career is progressing, he could be joining that elite group.

Pickford is the most expensive British goalkeeper in history , after joining Premier League team Everton from Sunderland last year for a fee that could rise to 30 million pounds ($38.3 million), and the third costliest goalkeeper ever after Italy great Gianluigi Buffon and Brazil’s Ederson Moraes of Manchester City.

He is breaking the mold. Away from his agility and shot-stopping, no previous English goalkeeper has showed such composure and technical ability with his feet, a trait that England manager Gareth Southgate sees as vital for his team’s approach.

“Pickford, for me, is sort of the prototype of what a modern goalkeeper should be,” Southgate said.

Against Sweden, some of the clipped passes Pickford made to his wingbacks, Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young, were as good as any of England’s ball-playing midfielders could produce.

“To be able to play the way that I think we want to play going forward,” Southgate said, “we need goalkeepers of that ilk.”

Whatever happens in the semifinals or potentially the final, Pickford will return to England as one of the team’s star performers in Russia. The abiding memory will likely be an acrobatic save against Colombia that saw him tip Mateus Uribe’s dipping long-range effort onto the crossbar at full stretch.

[ MORE: Zlatan loses bet with Beckham after England win ]

It might even rival Banks’ storied save from Brazil great Pele in the 1970 World Cup.

Yet, more recently, English goalkeepers have been better known for make high-profile mistakes, too. There was Robert Green allowing a seemingly harmless shot from U.S. forward Clint Dempsey through his grasp and into the net in a World Cup group-stage game in 2010.

Joe Hart was at fault for the winning goal when tiny Iceland beat England 2-1 in the round of 16 at Euro 2016. In 2007, Scott Carson’s mistake, when he spilled a long-range effort into his own net in a decisive qualifying match, contributed to England failing to reach Euro 2008. England’s goalkeeper at the start of the 21st century, David James, was sometimes cruelly labeled “Calamity James” because of his frequent mistakes.

The main criticism aimed at Pickford at this World Cup was his failure to stop Adnan Januzaj’s curling shot that earned Belgium a 1-0 win over England in the group stage. The ball almost went over the head of Pickford, who dived to his right and attempted the save with his left hand.

Pickford stands at 6-foot-1 (1.85 meters) tall, which is relatively short for an elite goalkeeper, and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois said: “I would have caught it. He was too busy throwing his legs in the air.”

Pickford has shown since then that he makes up for his lack of height with agility and speed across his line. Just ask Swedish players Marcus Berg and Viktor Claesson.

England is just hoping Pickford’s thumb heals in time for Croatia.

Why Aston Villa deserve Premier League promotion

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With the Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium on May 27, the richest game in soccer will see one of Aston Villa or Derby County promoted to the Premier League.

[ MORE: Latest Championship news ]

Which club deserves a spot in the English top-flight more? You can use metrics such as fanbase, stadiums, players, historical success and quality of coaches to try and sort this out, but the fact of the matter is, the playoffs are always a complete, and utterly brilliant, lottery.

The path Villa and Derby took to get to the final this season proves that.

Here’s a look at why Villa deserve to return to the PL after a three-year absence, while tomorrow we will focus on Derby…


Everything about Villa is a Premier League club.

Their incredible home at Villa Park is among the most historic and boisterous in England when it gets going and the Holte End is the jewel in its crown.

European champions in 1982, Villa are the biggest club from England’s second-city, Birmingham, and their fanbase is loyal, if not overly pessimistic as most Brummies are. The fact that there are no PL teams from Birmingham is astonishing. It is like having no top level sports teams in LA.

For three years they’ve now fought to get back into the top-flight after several seasons of struggle as former American owner Randy Lerner cut costs wherever he could. Under manager Dean Smith, a lifelong Villa fan, they now play wonderfully attractive soccer and have youngsters like Jack Grealish, Andre Green and Tammy Abraham leading the way.

Villa would be fun to watch if they were promoted to the Premier League. That much is sure. They’ll concede a lot of goals, but they would score a ton too.

There is also the potential for Villa to emulate Wolverhampton Wanderers. Seriously.

Their ownership group has strengthened in recent months with Chinese businessman Tony Xi selling 55 percent of his stake in the club to Egyptian billionaire Nassef Sawiris and American billionaire Wes Edens.

If Villa come up the financial fair play shackles which restricted them in the Championship in recent years will come off. The potential for them to spend big is there, but they have a team full of players on loan from PL clubs who have formed a bond and could likely be kept together and bought permanently this summer.

Quite simply, Villa are a top 10 team in the Premier League. They have suffered due to Lerner’s decision to pull out his investment but they have now rebuilt themselves with a strong core of young talent and have a manager in place who is progressive and ambitious both with his style of play and where Villa can get to in the PL.

Under Steve Bruce, Villa lost to Fulham in the playoff final last season at Wembley. But with local lad Grealish leading their charge there is a sense that failure last year was a blessing in disguise. This Villa side are young and hungry and they are exciting to watch.

That is why Villa deserve to be promoted to the Premier League for the 2019-20 season.

Sevilla: Caparros won’t stay as coach for next season

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MADRID (AP) Sevilla says Joaquin Caparros will not be the team’s coach next season.

The Spanish club says Caparros will stay linked to the team but in a different position that will be announced in the future.

The former sports director has coached Sevilla since replacing the fired Pablo Machin in March, leading the club to a sixth-place finish in the Spanish league and a spot in the Europa League.

Caparros was also in charge of Sevilla for the final stretch of last season after Italian coach Vincenzo Montella was fired.

The 63-year-old Caparros last month announced he was fighting chronic leukemia but could keep working normally at the club.

He coached Sevilla in 241 matches in total, more than any other coach.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Transfer rumor roundup: Mata to Newcastle; Wilson to Saints

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The Premier League transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are going to start kicking up a few notches.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the PL…


Juan Mata is out of contract at Manchester United this summer, and it appears he could be staying in the Premier League.

The Spanish attacking midfielder has spent the last nine season in the Premier League at Chelsea and Man United, scoring 78 goals in 353 appearances in all competitions.

Mata, 31, has been linked with a free transfer for Newcastle United with the Sun saying that Rafael Benitez is keen to bring in the Spanish midfielder. He will have to use his powers of persuasion with owner Mike Ashley to try and get in the players they need this summer.

Benitez is still not assured of being at St James’ Park himself next season, as talks with Ashley over a new contract are ongoing, but it is clear that the Spanish coach needs to be backed in the transfer market if the Magpies are going to improve on their 13th and 10th place finishes in the last two seasons.

Mata played for Benitez at Chelsea and it is believed he has offers to return to La Liga.

With Matt Ritchie, Miguel Almiron and Ayoze Perez in attack, Newcastle could probably strengthen in other areas of their squad first. However, with Salomon Rondon only on loan from West Brom last season and no deal to sign him permanently currently in place, Benitez will know he needs extra attacking options and must do it on the cheap to appease Ashley.

Given that fact, Mata is a quality player who would demand high wages but no transfer fee is a clincher.


Harry Wilson is a man in demand after his superb loan spell at Derby County this season.

Wilson, 22, is wanted by Newcastle, Southampton and Brighton according to Sky Sports, while the likes of Wolves, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, as well as several Bundesliga clubs, have all been previously interesting in the Liverpool youngster. Jurgen Klopp has loaned Wilson out to Crewe, Hull and now Derby, and it is unlikely he will break through at Liverpool soon considering the attacking talent they possess.

A fee of $32 million has been suggested for Wilson, as the Welsh international has excelled under Frank Lampard at Derby and has been key in their run to the Championship playoff final against Aston Villa next Monday. His set piece delivery is sensational and Wilson has scored 18 goals and added four assists in all competitions for the Rams this season.

If Derby are promoted, maybe Wilson will remain at Pride Park, but the likes of Southampton, Wolves and Newcastle would seem like a very good spot for him to kick on and prove himself in the Premier League. Saints and Newcastle would offer him guaranteed playing time almost immediately and that has been key in his development this season at Derby.

Ralph Hasenhuttl has been keen to stress Saints will only sign young players or those who are hungry and searching for a first big contract of their career, and Wilson would slot into their attack nicely alongside Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse in support of Danny Ings.

Sarri to discuss Chelsea future

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Maurizio Sarri isn’t sure if he will be in charge at Chelsea next season.

The Italian coach has confirmed that he will sit down and meet with Chelsea’s hierarchy after the UEFA Europa League final with Arsenal next Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Baku, Azerbaijan, Sarri was asked about news reports linking him with a return to Italy to manager Juventus.

“It is very exciting to be here, but now it is time to think of the final,” Sarri said. “I have two years of my contract here. I have no contract with other clubs. I have to speak with my club after the final. I want to know if they are happy with me.”

Sarri added that he will discuss the situation in detail, but is extremely happy to remain at Stamford Bridge.

“I’m very happy to stay in the Premier League, with Chelsea, one of the most important clubs in the Premier League. I’m very, very happy but we have to discuss the situation. It’s normal. You have to discuss things with the club. It’s like this,” Sarri said.

Chelsea have hardly set the world alight this season, but finished third in the Premier League as they limped over the line at the end of the season. A top four finish was key for Sarri in his first season, so he achieved that, but the style of play was lambasted by many fans and neutrals, as the predictable, slow build-up play turned out to be easy to defend against. The reports around his future state that Chelsea are quite happy to let him leave this summer if another club wants to pay his $7 million release clause.

Sarri has reached the League Cup final and Europa League final in his debut season in England too, but his downbeat demeanor in press conferences has translated to a negative vibe with supporters.

Many want Frank Lampard — who has excelled in his first season as a manager at second-tier Derby — to replace Sarri this summer and given the impending transfer ban for Chelsea and Eden Hazard leaving, will he be able to improve the squad of players he currently has?

A big few weeks coming up for Sarri and Chelsea and their immediate futures.