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Lennon encourages other pros to seek help for depression

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Aaron Lennon believes that there are other professional footballers struggling with depression, and he has encouraged anyone suffering silently to “speak to someone, because there is a lot of help available and it can really make a difference.”

[ MORE: Pep Guardiola loving life as “bold” Man City advances in UCL ]

Speaking at a Burnley in the Community event this week, Lennon revealed that, in light of his own public bout with depression, he has made himself available as a sounding board for “a couple of players” already and he welcomes others in the game to do the same — quotes from the Guardian:

“I have spoken to a couple of players about it to offer them advice. They wanted to know what I’d been through and where to get help. There are probably still players out there who don’t want to talk about anything to anyone — I know because that is just what I was like — but my message would be to speak to someone because there is a lot of help available and it can really make a difference. The person I spoke to when I was being treated helped me massively within about 10 minutes.”

Lennon, of course, acknowledges that it’s something which is much easier said than done. He himself didn’t actively seek help, but was instead briefly detained under the UK’s Mental Health Act in May 2017. It’s not just current pros for whom Lennon fears, but the next wave of players coming through who come under intense scrutiny from a very early age.

“I’m not really the sort of person who finds it easy to ask for help; at least, I wasn’t until a couple of years ago. As a footballer, I knew how to look after my physical health but that was all — I didn’t know what to do about my mental wellbeing. I didn’t really know who to turn to when I started to feel low, and that’s why the situation got to where it did.”

“It was a gradual process. I didn’t realize I needed help until it was too late. I would tell my friends and family I was OK, but I really wasn’t. That’s why I think it’s brilliant that people are being put into schools, because people who need help can be difficult to spot, they tend to cover it up well.

“There’s a lot of pressure on kids nowadays, with social media and camera phones on top of their exams and schoolwork. I don’t think I’d want to go through it all again to be honest. What I would say though is that it is OK if you don’t feel great all the time, and that talking to people can help. I can really see the point of projects like this, because mental illness is definitely something you can recover from.”

Lennon, 31, believes he has made a full recovery and is back to operating as the best version of himself.

Shane Long records fastest goal in Premier League history (video)

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A record was broken just seven seconds into the match between Watford and Southampton at Vicarage Road on Tuesday.

That’s how long it took Shane Long to score the fastest goal in Premier League history as he gave Southampton the earliest of leads on the road.

The goal breaks the record held by Tottenham midfielder Ledley King, a mark that had stood for 19 years after he scored just a hair under 10 seconds into a match against Bradford City. His record had withstood a near-miss when Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen scored 10 seconds into a match against Manchester United last season, but the initial strike was deemed to stand after breaking the video down.

This one, however, left no doubt. Long jumped high in the air to block a long ball from Watford defender Craig Cathcart, and the bounce fell right at his feet. The Saints striker burst forward and finished easily past Ben Foster who was suddenly left on an island.

The goal for Long is his third in the club’s last four Premier League games, helping Southampton to inch further from the relegation zone. A win over Watford would do just that, all but sealing the club’s Premier League safety next season.

Jozy Altidore sidelined with hamstring injury

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Jozy Altidore‘s hamstring has seemingly failed to cooperate at the worst possible times.

The Toronto FC and USMNT striker has gone down yet again with an injury to his troublesome hamstring and will remain out for 2-3 weeks according to a report by the Associated Press. He was injured in the late stages of a wild 4-3 comeback win over Minnesota United over the weekend.

The injury is troublesome, because it comes less than two months before the United States is set to compete in the 2019 Gold Cup. While he should return in time to be an option for the United States according to the announced timetable, it brings back bad memories for national team fans who recall Altidore pulling up lame in the match against Ghana to open the 2014 World Cup, unable to play the rest of the tournament, an injury which left the United States massively undermanned the rest of the way.

Altidore has had plenty of ill-timed trouble with his hamstring over the years, most notably in 2016 which forced him out of the Copa America, a tournament which saw the United States host and finish fourth, unable to score against either Argentina or Colombia. He also had foot surgery last year around this time, forcing him out for over three months despite the initial 4-6 week timeframe announced.

The injury troubles are clearly frustrating for Altidore, given his outburst after the win over Minnesota last time out, where he criticized the club for parting ways with Italian trainer Giuseppe Gueli – who was let go when Sebastian Giovinco was sold – and also hit out at club president Bill Manning for his lack of availability and failure to communicate with the squad. He apologized for the outburst, saying the two met and cleared the air.

“I let my emotions get the best of me when speaking to the media after our wild comeback win against Minnesota,” Altidore wrote on Twitter the following day. “Bill and I connected this morning and I can confidently say we’re on the same page. I know Bill and Toronto FC are committed to pulling out all the stops and dedicated to putting the team in prime position to have a successful season. We move forward together.” Manning also met with the media to downplay the incident, saying that he was planning on bringing back Gueli in a part-time role.

Altidore has not played for the national team since the fateful night in Trinidad & Tobago which saw the United States fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. During that time, USMNT interim boss Dave Sarachan and new full-time head coach Gregg Berhalter has used the friendlies to explore the talent pool and find options outside of the regular starters. Still, Altidore is widely believed to top the USMNT striker depth chart, and any injury that leaves his status in doubt would give Berhalter a selection headache in his first competitive event in charge.

Mark Clattenburg heads to China as head of officiating

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Mark Clattenburg left England last year at the peak of his refereeing career for a big-money move to Saudi Arabia, and it appears he has his next high-profile move sorted as well.

The recognizable referee announced he has signed on to become Head of the Referee Division and Future Development of Referees for the Chinese Super League after the expiry of his contract at his previous role. He will return to the field in this new role, refereeing Chinese Super League matches as well as overseeing the league’s officials.

“I am excited by the new challenge,” Clattenburg said in the announcement. “The Chinese Super League has grown markedly in recent years and they want the standard of refereeing to grow with it.”

The Chinese Super League has been a popular destination for big-name players nearing the end of their peak years and looking to cash in on one final contract, with players like Javier Mascherano, Paulinho, Graziano Pelle, Oscar, Hulk, and Yannick Carrasco all currently plying their trade in the Far East. Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele both just recently moved from Premier League clubs to the Chinese league. “I’m looking forward to being part of [the league’s growth],” Clattenburg said. “You look at the quality of the players, so many in the peak of their career, and it is clear to see the ambition of the league and the clubs within it.”

Clattenburg was considered the top Premier League official when he retired from on-field duties in 2017, having previously taken charge of both Champions League and Euro finals, and was in line to represent England at the World Cup before abruptly calling time on his career. He transitioned to an overseer role in Saudi Arabia where he replaced Howard Webb and was able to coach officials and also give his opinion on on-field matters. He will now return to the field as part of his new role in China, a surprising development given it seemed he was finished with active refereeing when he departed the Premier League. That leaves the door open to a possible return to officiating in England down the road, and maybe in continental competitions as well.

The move also opens the door to foreign officials refereeing domestic matches outside their home country, not something previously thought of as a common occurrence.

Watch Live: Tottenham-Brighton, Watford-Southampton

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Two Premier League matches with European implications take the field on this Tuesday afternoon as Tottenham hosts Brighton & Hove Albion while Watford welcomes Southampton to Vicarage Road.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

Spurs will look to rebuild its lead in the race for the Champions League places in the table’s top four. With Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United all neck-and-neck vying for two spots, the other 3 teams all dropped points this round, leaving Tottenham with a brilliant opportunity to gain ground in third. They’ll go against a desperate 17th-placed Brighton, fighting for its life at the bottom of the table. The Seagulls sit as the last team safe, three points above Cardiff City looking for any kind of a result in a tough road matchup to build the lead over the drop to two games.

Watford, meanwhile, will look to keep pace with Everton in the race for the final Europa League position. The Hornets could guarantee themselves a spot in Europe should they finish seventh, knowing that they would qualify either via the FA Cup or their position in the table. They currently sit eighth, level on points with the Toffees, but back on goal differential. A win or draw against Southampton would restore the slim lead over a red-hot Everton side that is finishing the season strong and pressuring Watford for that final European spot. Southampton sits in 16th on 36 points, five above the relegation zone, and a win today would all but ensure Premier League survival.


Tottenham Hotspur v. Brighton & Hove Albion — 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Tottenham: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Wanyama, Eriksen, Dele, Son, Lucas, Llorente.
Bench: Gazzaniga, Davies, Foyth, Sanchez, Dier, Skipp, Janssen.

Brighton: Ryan, Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo, Stephens, Bissouma, Gross, Jahanbakhsh, Andone, Locadia.
Bench: Button, Burn, Bong, Balogun, Kayal, March, Murray.


Watford v. Southampton — 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Masina, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Deulofeu, Pereyra, Gray.
Bench: Gomes, Britos, Mariappa, Success, Femena, Chalobah, Sema.

Southampton: Gunn, Bertrand, Bednarek, Yoshida, Stephens, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Long.
Bench: Forster, Vallery, Ramsay, Lemina, Sims, Ings, Austin.