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Local hero Danny Ings leading Saints with goals, smiles

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SOUTHAMPTON — Danny Ings is on fire and has led his hometown club up the Premier League table and away from relegation trouble in recent months.

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Southampton have won six of their last nine Premier League games and in that period only Liverpool have won more points than them, as Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side have totally transformed their season. Ings scoring over 50 percent of their goals has, obviously, played a huge part in that as he’s scored winners against Tottenham and Leicester in shock back-to-back victories.

The red-hot Saints host Wolverhampton Wanderers this Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com) hoping to make it six wins in seven in all competitions as their amazing run of form has coincided with Ings being in the form of his life. With that in mind we went along to Southampton’s training ground in England’s New Forest National Park to speak to the man who sits second in the Premier League’s goalscoring charts.

Full disclosure, this is not the first time I’ve met or spoken to Danny Ings. Back in 2015 I was working on a longform story detailing his rise to Liverpool, via Burnley and Bournemouth, as he’d just made his England debut after breaking into Liverpool’s first team as a regular. I visited his dad Shayne and his partner Sue, and spoke to his family and others close to him as he was set to be the next big thing in English soccer at the age of 23.

Ings then ruptured his ACL in Jurgen Klopp‘s first training session as Liverpool boss. And then did it again two years later. He moved to his hometown club Southampton on an initial loan in 2018 and the $26 million deal became permanent last summer. It is the best deal Southampton have made in some time.

With 16 goals to his name in all competitions this season, and 10 in his last 11 appearances in the Premier League, he’s in the form of his life in front of his family and friends. He is dubbed “King of the Scummers” by Saints fans who revel in his two goals in a 4-0 win away at League One Portsmouth, their bitter rivals, in the League Cup earlier this season and he admitted that game, and becoming even more of a local hero, kickstarted his season.

As he smiles widely while rubbing his heavily tattooed hand across his chin, Ings is thriving on the pressure placed on him at St Mary’s, Saints’ home stadium which is only a couple of miles away from where he grew up. The pressure to deliver match tickets each week for friends is one thing, but scoring goals as the No. 9 is on another level altogether.

“I think when I knew when I was coming here, I was inviting a lot of pressure on myself,” Ings said. “To wear the number nine shirt in front of your hometown, there is a lot or pressure in that alone. But for me, because I was playing at Liverpool before that among lots of world class players who I’ve looked up to and tried to learn from, those were the guys who had more questions than I did after back-to-back knee operations. The craving of having that pressure on myself is something that I wanted for so long and coming here excites me to have that pressure because I know if I come off the pitch and I have scored a goal, it means a lot more to me.”

Not content with just scoring goals for his hometown, Ings is also one of very few players who is working hard in the classroom too. He is currently completing an economics degree and is learning to play the guitar when he switches off from being the man of the moment. Add into that his tireless work in the community with the “Danny Ings Disability Sports Project” charity he set up to help children with disabilities, and he’s doing all he can off the pitch.

On the pitch, Hasenhuttl, his boss at Saints, has labelled Ings ‘outrageous’ among other superlatives and recently said that the form of Ings is “due to him working his ass off” every day. Even on his off days. Ings spent his time off in the summer doing one thing: working his ass off.

He was in Portugal and Los Angeles and Miami training with nutritionists and performance coaches, Alex Parsons and  Nicky Holender, who worked on building up his core strength ahead of what was a hugely important season.

After three serious knee injuries spread across his time at Burnley and Liverpool, is he making up for lost time?

“For me, I’m just having fun now, my mindset in my career right now is that if I put the work in Monday to Friday, and I know I’ve done everything I’ve done to prepare for the game ahead, I know I can go out and have fun at the weekend,” Ings smiled. “I feel like people are really seeing that in my performances now, I am playing the game, I am smiling, I am happy. When I’m getting the chance I am trying to be as clinical as I can be. I’m not going to score every week, that’s normal. But if I give myself the best chance of getting into those positions, I know that I can score more goals and there are plenty more games still to come in the season.”

His return to form and fitness has led to calls for him to be called up by Gareth Southgate for the English national team in March. Ings is playing it cool when asked about a call up, but his former managers, current teammates and pundits are rallying behind the widely-loved striker who has been through tough times but has shown incredible mental strength to come out of it a better player.

With Jamie Vardy‘s retirement and Harry Kane‘s injury, a spot has opened up. Tammy Abraham, Callum Wilson and Marcus Rashford have been the other strikers in recent squads, but does Ings offer something slightly different?

“I would say we are all kind of different players in the way we play for our clubs and the way we have been over the course of our careers, really. Gareth will want a certain striker playing a certain way for him and it is all about what he wants,” Ings said. “The way I am in the system here at the club, it is all about pressing, running behind, not having too many touches on the ball. If that is something that is different to the other lads and how Gareth wants to set his team up, then yeah, I’d say it is definitely a different way for me.”

Playing for Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, Sean Dyche at Burnley, Brendan Rodgers and Klopp at Liverpool and now Hasenhuttl at Saints, the managers Ings have played for are very different and he thanks them all for developing his understanding of the game and all asking him to do different things. But the thing he has always done well is score goals. By the boatload.

Can he explain this glut of goals which has already culminated in his best-ever goalscoring season with 16 games of the season still to go? He has scored plenty of goals this season by sniffing around defenders, pouncing on mistakes and leading Saints’ now famed press under Hasenhuttl.

“It is hard to put my finger on that. Every game I want to try and create as many chances as I can and be in the right positions when the lads are providing. I go back to the momentum, momentum is key,” Ings said. “Any striker will tell you that when you are on a goal run you find yourself ending up in better positions to score goals, your focus is a lot stronger because you have the bug for scoring goals and trying to do the best you can for the team. That is the mindset I’ve been in this season. I am finding myself in great positions because the momentum is there and it is a hunger that we all have as goalscorers.”

Ings is in lethal form at the moment and you will not find one person across the Premier League who is unhappy about it. From his high-pressing to his finishing, plenty of the PL’s big boys will keep sniffing around Ings but he is keen to point out he is very happy at Southampton and isn’t thinking about anything else.

What is achievable for the rest of the season with Saints, a team who had just two wins on the board heading into late November but are now just three points off possible European qualification?

“For every club you want to achieve the maximum you can. We’ve put ourselves in a position now where we have gone further away from where we were and we are edging closer to the teams in and around those [European] places. For us, I feel like it is important we maintain our momentum,” Ings said. “Every game is so tough in the Premier League, you never know what’s going to happen. If we start thinking too far ahead, we might lose a little bit of the focus in the game that is coming at the weekend. You can see how hard the lads are working now to be the best team we can be. You can see how it is clicking and that is the way moving forward. If you look too far ahead you might lose a bit of focus and it is important we don’t do that.”

With Southampton’s fans signing his name loud and proud and hailing him as “one of our own” Ings is a happy man. Back at home, everybody wants to speak with him, everyone wants photos and everyone in the biggest city on England’s South Coast wants tickets to watch him play.

His goals and smiles have been one of the stories of the Premier League season so far as he pushes for the Golden Boot in the final months of the campaign. After his injuries and heartache in recent years, seeing Danny Ings back smiling, and scoring, is a beautiful sight for anybody who loves the beautiful game.

The fact he can now celebrate with his family by jumping on a boat and going fishing in Southampton Water hours after being the hero on the banks of the River Itchen is an added bonus. And one he clearly loves.

Alan Pardew appointed manager of ADO Den Haag

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Alan Pardew is back in the game.

After a 20-month period without work, the 58-year-old former West Brom, Newcastle, and Crystal Palace manager has taken the job at Dutch club ADO Den Haag.

Pardew takes over from Alfons Groenendijk, who was sacked after two years in charge with the club second from bottom in the 18-team Eredivisie. The position is highly disappointing for a club that is generally considered a top-half Eredivisie side, having finished ninth, seventh, and 11th the last three seasons.

“Pardew has experience in dealing with difficult situations, but also knows the way to success,” the official team release read, confirming that he has already begun watching film on the club and taking charge of training.

“We are very happy with the appointment of Alan, who has earned his stripes in English football,” said ADO Den Haag sporting director Mohammed Hamdi. “He has a lot of experience and that is important in the current situation. During conversations we became very enthusiastic about Alan’s football vision and the way he believes he can find a way up the table with ADO Den Haag.”

The club also confirmed that former Charlton Athletic player and Huddersfield Town manager Chris Powell will join as Pardew’s assistant. Powell, currently working under Gareth Southgate with the England national team, will also continue in his international coaching role.

Southampton hail ‘absolutely outrageous’ Ings

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Southampton’s savior this season has been local lad Danny Ings.

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He now has 11 goals in the Premier League so far this season, with seven in his last seven as he scored twice to set them up for a huge 3-1 win away at relegation rivals Aston Villa on Saturday.

After spending last season on loan at Saints, the move became a $26 million permanent transfer from Liverpool in the summer and Ings was finally injury free and had a full preseason.

Speaking after the win at Villa to BBC Sport, Ings’ manager Ralph Hasenhuttl is delighted.

“Danny is fantastic at the moment, he’s absolutely outrageous at the moment and I’m very happy for him,” Hasenhuttl said.

As for the man of the moment, he praised the work the team is putting in as they’ve now won three of their last five games to bounce back after a tough start to the season.

“It is very, very important for us as a team, the fans and everyone at the club,” Ings told BBC Solent. “We didn’t start the season too strong but to come here and win the way we did today, that shows real promise for us as a team that we are working hard to turn all our mistakes from previous games into positives. Today we showed a proper professional performance.”

Ings’ comeback has been so impressive and he looks like he’s going to score every time he steps on the pitch right now. He was denied by the post and crossbar last week against West Ham, while he also scored a screamer which was ruled out due to a foul in the build-up, and he scored in his five games before he fired a blank against the Hammers.

Simply put, Ings is on fire. If he stayed fit, this was always likely to happen.

He is just the third player in Southampton’s history to hit double figures in a season before Christmas Day and he says it is all down to an intense offseason.

“It is great, it really is great, I worked extremely hard in the offseason,” Ings said. “Last year I couldn’t give as much as I wanted to due to fitness and things like that but this year I’ve worked really hard to get into the shape I’m in and every day, coming into training, for games, I am having fun. I am enjoying my football again. When I’m enjoying my football it brings out the best in me and I know there is still more to come and I’m going to work extremely hard to make sure I fulfil my potential here.”

Right now he looks certain to get a call-up for the England national team in March and although Gareth Southgate isn’t short of options in attack, Ings’ pace and ability to be in the right place at the right time is Jamie Vardy-esque. Vardy probably isn’t going to come out of retirement for EURO 2020, so Ings would be a great option for England.

Saints hope he will 1) stay fit and 2) keep scoring as they are now out of the relegation zone and three points clear of trouble ahead of a tough festive period with Tottenham, Crystal Palace and Liverpool up next.

Southampton hammer Aston Villa

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Southampton beat Aston Villa 3-1 at Villa Park on Saturday in a massive win in the relegation battle.

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Saints raced into a 3-0 lead at Villa with in-form Danny Ings scoring twice and Jack Stephens grabbing another, and although Jack Grealish scored a beauty late on it was too little, too late for Villa.

With the win Southampton jump out of the relegation zone and have 18 points for the season, while Villa slip into the bottom three after their fourth defeat in arow in the Premier League.


3 things we learned

1. McGinn’s injury hits Villa hard: It looked like a really nasty injury to John McGinn in just third third minute as he caught his left ankle in the turf and required lengthy treatment. The Scotsman has been influential for Villa this season and if he is set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines that is a big blow for the Midlands giants. Jack Grealish is rightly praised as Villa’s main man going forward but McGinn makes them tick.

2. Danny Ings is on fire: He has scored seven goals in his last seven Premier League games and is only the third Saints player to score 10 or more goals before Christmas in PL history. He is the main reason Saints are sitting out of the bottom three as the approach the midway point. The local lad is doing good, and Ings is so sharp and is finally benefitting from a stretch of not being injured. Right now he looks certain to get a call-up for the England national team in March and although Gareth Southgate isn’t short of options in attack, Ings’ pace and ability to be in the right place in the right time is Jamie Vardy-esque. Vardy probably isn’t going to come out of retirement for EURO 2020, so Ings would be a great option.

3. Dean Smith‘s honeymoon period over: He is a Villa fan and got them promoted back to the Premier League, so Dean Smith will always have the thanks of the Villa faithful. But his honeymoon period is definitely over. After a summer of big spending plenty was expected of this Villa team but they aren’t delivering on that promise. Calls from Villa fans for Smith to be fired have started and defensively they continue to leak goals, while Wesley just isn’t providing the attacking fulcrum they need.

Man of the Match: Danny Ings – Two goals and he continues his fine start to the season. A constant pest and he could have scored four or five on Saturday.


Villa lost John McGinn just three minutes into the game as he caught his studs in the turf and injured his left ankle as he spent plenty of time getting treatment.

The home side had the first big chance as Alex McCarthy denied Anwar El Ghazi, then Shane Long somehow headed over from two yards out as Ryan Bertrand flashed a ball across the box.

Southampton then took the lead as Long was played in over the top by Redmond and his shot was saved by Tom Heaton but Ings was on hand to tap home.

Saints were well on top by this point and Jack Stephens crossed for Long but he couldn’t finish and moments later Long’s header almost snuck in off Kortney Hause.

Frederic Guilbert had a shot on half time which Alex McCarthy pushed over as Villa tried to get going after a poor first half.

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Southampton grabbed a third at the start of the second half as Villa only half cleared and Ings pounced on some hesitancy to rifle home his second and Saints’ third of the game.

Ings almost got in again but Redmond overhit his pass and he then smashed a shot into the near post, as Villa left plenty of gaps as they piled forward in search of a way back into the game.

Grealish smashed home an unstoppable effort from distance to make it 3-1 with 15 minutes to go.

Saints should have wrapped up the win but Ings had a shot saved and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg‘s follow-up was over the bar.

Grealish had a late effort from distance which McCarthy tipped over the bar as the home side finished well but the damage was done in the first half.

Report: Man United lead $130 million Sancho chase

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Manchester United is said to be at the front of the queue to sign teenage winger Jadon Sancho.

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The England international, 19, has excelled at Borussia Dortmund over the last 18 months but after he was hauled off by BVB coach Lucien Favre in the first half of a humbling defeat at Bayern Munich earlier this month, then criticized by his coach, Sancho’s future has come into discussion once again after previous fallings out with the hierarchy at Dortmund.

Sancho has a host of Europe’s top clubs forming a not so orderly queue to sign him.

Dortmund have admitted many times that he won’t be with them for much longer and a report from The Telegraph claims that Man United believe they are winning the race to sign Sancho this summer.

The former Watford and Man City academy product sensationally left City in 2017 for $10 million in search of first team action and found that almost immediately at Dortmund as he jumped ahead of USMNT star Christian Pulisic as one of the starting wingers for the German giants.

After a fine 2018-19 campaign for Dortmund he’s struggled for consistency this season but has been a regular for Gareth Southgate’s England either off the bench or starting as he’s scored his first Three Lions goals in September and is expected to be a key player for England at EURO 2020 next summer.

Does Ole Gunnar Solskjaer need another young attacker?

United are seriously lacking creativity in the final third and although they have the pace of Marcus Rashford, Daniel James and Anthony Martial up top, they are missing a player who can knit it all together. Sancho can do that from out wide as he often cuts in to a central role to use his trickery to unlock defenses, and that’s why so many Premier League and top European clubs are chasing him.

Liverpool, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and Chelsea have been mentioned as potential destinations for Sancho should he leave Dortmund but United’s new strategy of signing young, hungry British talents seems to give them the edge, while Sancho knows he will be an automatic starter for the Red Devils as they continue their painful rebuild.

United have the finances to sign Sancho, but does the youngster want to take the huge pressure on his shoulders to try and lead them back to glory?

He seems up for the challenge and has the talent. A frontline of James, Rashford, Martial and Sancho would certainly be a sight to behold over the next decade.