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FA Cup replays: Swans hang 8, Huddersfield needs ET

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The pair of Premier League combatants contesting FA Cup replays on Tuesday combined for 12 goals, but one posted their big number in much more convincing fashion.

[ PL PLAYBACK: What’s wrong with Chelsea? ]

The other match saw a League One side advance to the fifth round.

Swansea City 8-1 Notts County

Carlos Carvalhal’s Welsh good vibes continue to pile up as Swans battered Kevin Nolan‘s League Two promotion hopefuls at the Liberty Stadium, setting up a visit to Sheffield Wednesday.

Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham sandwiched first half goals around a pair from Nathan Dyer, and Kyle Naughton and Wayne Routledge both netted in the second half before Tom Carroll made it seven.

Twenty-year old Daniel James scored his first goal for Swans. Abraham also had an assist, while Luciano Narsingh had assists on the three others first half goals.

Noor Husin scored County’s goal.

Birmingham City 1-1 (1-4 aet) Huddersfield Town

Aaron Mooy found Steve Mounie at the start of extra time to push Huddersfield Town into the fifth round and a visit from Manchester United. Town split the PL season series with United, but won 2-1 at the John Smith’s Stadium on Oct. 21 before losing to the Red Devils at the weekend.

Rajiv Van la Parra and Tom Ince also scored in extra time for David Wagner‘s Premier League visitors, who controlled the ball and chances but went to extra time without having put a ball in the goal.

England U-20 veteran Che Adams put the Blues ahead in the 52nd minute, but Marc Roberts posted an own goal to level the score in the 60th.

Rochdale 1-0 Millwall

The League One hosts roll onto the fifth round after Ian Henderson scored in the 53rd minute. Rochdale will meet either Spurs or Newport County.

Free agents: Flamini to Crystal Palace? Chamakh, Sissoko trial with WBA

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With the transfer window closed, Premier League teams have turned to out-of-contract players for their squads.

There are plenty of rumored deals out there and we’ll delve into them here as well as give you some names to monitor moving forward.

[ MORE: Yaya out of City’s UCL roster ]

Victor Anichebe has already been scooped up by Sunderland, and Marouane Chamakh and Mohamed Sissoko are on trial at West Bromwich Albion today, where the Baggies face the Indian Super League’s Delhi Dynamos.

The Guardian claims that Crystal Palace could land longtime Arsenal man Mathieu Flamini, though the Frenchman is wanted by a number of teams across Europe.

Among the other recognizable and available Premier League names are Stephane Sessegnon, Charles N'Zogbia, Kevin Nolan, Bobby Zamora, Leon Osman, and Junior Hoilett.

Longtime Juventus man Martin Caceres is 29 and was expected to sign with AS Roma once rehabilitated from an achilles injury, but has yet to make anything official. We’re only mentioning the slight possibility because, when healthy, he’s quite good.

Not a lot to love there for those looking for help.

Benitez stay is huge, but Newcastle cannot be content with players

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As posted yesterday, Rafa Benitez met with the media after Newcastle United confirmed that the trophy-winning manager has decided to stay with the club despite relegation, and said this is his ship now.

This is huge news for the Magpies.

The 56-year-old Spaniard couldn’t rescue the sinking ship he inherited from Steve McClaren, and is tasked with lifting Newcastle back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.

[ USMNT-ECUADOR: Match recap | Player ratings | 3 things ]

For years, Newcastle’s managers have been subject to the approval of chief scouts, managing directors and owner Mike Ashley. What Benitez has now is assurances that no player is being sold without his permission, and none being bought without his approval. Which means no midseason sales of Yohan Cabaye because the iron is hot, or unrequested purchases like Xisco.

Of course that could mean we’re headed for a huge August or January bust-up when Ashley or Lee Charnley pulls the rug out from some big acquisition that could firm up Newcastle’s standing in the top flight, but we’ll stay on the sunny side for now and assume Benitez’s people made that part of his contact air tight.

It means Newcastle could line up, basically, the same as last season. There are plusses and minuses to that, of course, as the club was relegated thanks to woeful form and players who were perhaps rightfully accused of only showing up for primetime matches.

Consider:

— Newcastle took as many points from Manchester United (2) as Aston Villa.

— The Magpies went 2-0 against Tottenham Hotspur, grabbed four points from Liverpool, beat West Ham and drew both Manchester City and Chelsea.

— They also lost to relegation rivals Norwich, drew Sunderland twice and were swept by Watford.

So while Benitez holds sway to keep Moussa Sissoko, Georginio Wijnaldum and Daryl Janmaat despite the big money they could command on the open market, he has to be 100 percent sure they won’t mail it in.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: Kevin Nolan of Newcastle United celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Andy Carroll (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Liverpool at St James' Park on December 11, 2010 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Carroll and Nolan (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

There’s no certainty there, and one of the main things that helped Newcastle bounce right back up to the PL in 2009-10 was a crew that got its footing in the Championship by Week 13 and never looked back: the Magpies lost just once in the league from Oct. 24 onward thanks in large part to heart-and-soul players who stuck around after the drop (Kevin Nolan, Jonas Gutierrez, Fabricio Coloccini, Andy Carroll and others).

Among those who fit the bill for understanding the task at hand are Andros Townsend, Jonjo Shelvey, Jack Colback, Chancel Mbemba and Coloccini. Others, like Sissoko and Siem De Jong, risk poisoning the well. That’s not to say they shouldn’t be kept around, but Benitez will need to know transfer rumor and agent hijinks aren’t in the offing.

Make no mistake about it, Benitez in control is better than anything the Magpies have had in ages and Newcastle is far more likely to replicate the instant promotions of West Ham and itself than the divisional drops of Leeds United and Portsmouth.

What now? Newcastle United after relegation

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There’s nothing good about this.

Newcastle United has no silver lining in its relegation cloud after sinking into the second tier for a second time.

There will be no awakening, no excuses that they were unlucky. There isn’t going to be a series of veterans lining up to stay and instantly guide the team back to the top flight, as proud players Kevin Nolan, Fabricio Coloccini, Jonas Gutierrez and Andy Carroll did in 2009-10.

[ MORE: Newcastle, Norwich relegated | NUFC director reacts ]

There was a bit of an exodus then, too: Obafemi Martins bailed out alongside Michael Owen, Sebastien Bassong and David Edgar. And surely Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum won’t risk international futures for France and Holland while playing in the championship. Daryl Janmaat, Ayoze Perez and Tim Krul will likely follow suit.

Jonjo Shelvey and Andros Townsend showed great heart during the relegation battle, but will they be content to help the Magpies in the Championship. Chancel Mbemba and Aleksandar Mitrovic would be stars in the second tier, but will they be okay staying one year after arriving from a Champions League outfit?

The good news is that all of those players have some too much value on the transfer market, and Newcastle is a rich club.

[ MORE: Allardyce hails “difficult to beat” Sunderland ]

Much maligned owner Mike Ashley is almost certainly not selling the club at a loss. In the past he’s said that he’s “wedded” to the club for better or relegation. Well here’s the latter, and Ashley has had seven managers oversee 20 or more matches since buying the team in 2007. Their win percentages?

Sam Allardyce — 33 percent
Kevin Keegan — 29 percent
Joe Kinnear — 22 percent
Chris Hughton — 59 percent*
Alan Pardew — 38 percent
John Carver — 15 percent
Steve McClaren — 23 percent

*majority of games in Championship

Not too good. By comparison, some of the worst percentages amongst active PL bosses belong to Sam Allardyce (30 percent), Tony Pulis (33 percent) and Mark Hughes (38 percent). Only Pardew even comes close to flirting with those marks… and those are, again, among the worst.

Then, there’s the current manager: Rafa Benitez. He almost certainly is interested in executing his out-clause, and most of their pre-Benitez hires have been at-best yes men or long shots: Alan Pardew, John Carver, Steve McClaren, Joe Kinnear (!!)… these were not inspired hires. Lucking out with Chris Hughton over promotion in 2009-10 was another story altogether.

[ MORE: Norwich’s Neil calls relegation “severe disappointment” ]

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Youngsters Adam Armstrong and Ivan Toney were on loan this year, the Magpies played most of the season with a second or third string keeper after Tim Krul and then Rob Elliot were hurt, and really did have a poor run of injuries.

The Magpies have a good chance for instant promotion, though probably not the 102-point run they pulled in 2009-10. A lot of it hinges on having the right manager, whether Benitez surprisingly decides to stay or a new face is brought to Tyneside, and fans will have trouble trusting Ashley and managing director Lee Charnley with making the right choice.

Longtime Premier Leaguer Nolan takes player-manager role in League Two

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Ever see a manager flap his arms like a chicken?

Ever see one do it after scoring a goal?

[ MORE: USMNT’s Gooch goes on loan to League One side ]

Those are questions to which you may respond, “Yes”, in short order, as Leyton Orient has signed former Newcastle, West Ham and Bolton captain Kevin Nolan as player-manager.

It’s a two-and-a-half year deal for Nolan, who will guide the O’s in League Two. Orient is in 11th place, five points off the promotion playoff.

From leytonorient.com:

Kevin brings with him invaluable expertise and know how, with 17 years’ experience in high level football. A number of strong candidates were interviewed by the Chairman, but Kevin’s hunger, desire and passion to succeed at Leyton Orient, coupled with his experience, were key in the decision process and the Club believe they have the man to take Leyton Orient forward and improve the Club’s position.

Nolan is a physical player with strong leadership skills, and any drop-off in skill level will be mitigated by his three-tier drop in level of play.

Orient was relegated from League One last season, and Nolan takes over a club with Jamaican national teamer Jobi McAnuff and a fellow ex-Hammer in striker