Ross McCormack

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Bolt unlikely to agree to terms with Australian club

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Usain Bolt’s search for a professional contract may go on a bit longer.

According to the Central Coast Mariners, the Australian club he’s been training with, they have extended Bolt a contract, but conceded a deal is “unlikely” “without the financial contribution of an external third-party,”

Reports across Europe state that Bolt is looking for a $3 million contract from any team he signs with, and the Mariners appear unable to meet those demands. “We are looking at ways to do this as the club does not have the luxury to be able to do this in the Hyundai A-League,” the club said in a statement. According to a report by the Guardian, the Australian football governing body has contributed $100,000 from its marketing fund for the contract, but would add no more than that.

Bolt scored twice in a friendly last week, and he’s been training with the club for the past few weeks, but the club announced that while talks are ongoing, Bolt will not travel with the team or attend training “to ensure that there is no distraction to the Hyundai A-League squad in preparing for this weekend’s match versus Melbourne City.”

The A-League side said in the statement that while Bolt is improving, the former sprinter requires further training to become a viable professional player. “Usain has made great progression during his time on the Central Coast and we feel that he will improve further with more individual intensive training and competitive game time.”

However, the club’s head coach wasn’t so complimentary. “Do you think he’ll get in our front three? We’ve got a very good front third,” Mike Mulvey said. Central Coast sports former Leeds United, Fulham, and Aston Villa striker Ross McCormack up front, alongside 26-year-old Australian international Tommy Oar and 24-year-old Connor Pain who has one cap for the international side.

Bolt doesn’t exactly have a ton of time to improve his game, already at 32 years of age and with a full Olympic-medal-winning professional sprinting career on his legs.

FA bans Leeds owner Massimo Cellino 18 months

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Leeds United may be making a push to return to the Premier League, but they’ll have to do so without their owner.

Massimo Cellino, who took over Leeds in February of 2014, has been banned for 18 months by the English FA for his involvement in the sale of Ross McCormack to Fulham later that summer. He was also fined $315,000 and required to complete a course outlining the duties and restrictions for owners in the English league.

During McCormack’s sale, a significant payment was apparently paid to unlicensed agent Barry Hughes, facilitated by McCormack’s official licensed agent Derek Day, who was also banned for 18 months, although 11 of those are suspended, leaving him sidelined for seven months should no other infractions arise.

This likely will only serve to accelerate the current potential sale of Leeds to Andrea Radrizzani, with both sides having publicly acknowledged discussions are ongoing.

Leeds is currently in fourth in the Championship table, having won five of their last six matches. McCormack, meanwhile, scoring a whopping 42 goals in 100 appearances over two years before making a big-money move to Aston Villa this past summer, where he has slumped at Villa Park, owning just two goals over 13 Championship appearances this season and losing his place in the team. To be fair, he struggled in his early days at Fulham as well, scoring just twice in his first 15 matches before exploding in his second season at Craven Cottage with 21 league goals.

Championship season under way with favorites Newcastle already dropped by Fulham

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Had we done this Championship season preview a few hours ago, we’d sit here and tell you how Rafa Benitez and Newcastle are the clear favorites to win the league and make a straight return to Premier League play.

Oh, how things change in a few hours.

Fulham – last season’s defensive punchlines – took down a frail looking Newcastle 1-0 at Craven Cottage. Here are three things you need to know from this match: Newcastle did not put on a title-winning performance, looking shaky at the back; Fulham, on the other hand, looks a completely revitalized squad with a host of solid signings; and one of those new additions, Denis Odoi, completed this utterly ridiculous bit of skill, sending Paul Dummett to the woodshed:

Nevertheless, the Magpies remain the clear favorite in the league, with Rafa Benitez one of two Champions League-winning managers in the English second tier. The other is Roberto Di Matteo, the new Aston Villa manager charged with bringing them back to the Premier League with a much more underwhelming squad than Newcastle boasts. Di Matteo does have the chance to deploy a bright, shiny new toy up front in experienced Championship striker Ross McCormack, signed from Fulham on Thursday for a healthy sum of cash.

There are plenty of contenders for those promotion spots, however, and as always in the Championship, it’s a long, slog of a season to keep the favorites honest. Reading finished 17th last season, and replaced Brian McDermott with former Champions League winning player in Jaap Stam, handing the 44-year-old his first managerial job. Fulham is another side to keep an eye on, who finished 20th last year with a miserable defensive record, but despite the loss of leading scorer McCormack, as displayed in their victory over Benitez and Newcastle, they’ve made a host of smart signings and look to be a solid side under the management of former Chelsea midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic.

Derby County is another contender, having found themselves just barely on the wrong side of promotion yet again last year. Under the wing of Nigel Pearson – the man who brought Leicester City to the Premier League – they’ll give it another go. QPR is always a team to look out for, although they were uncharacteristically quiet this summer. Brighton Hove & Albion missed out on promotion last season on goal differential, and after succeeding in fending off interest in some of their best players this summer, they look ready to go, plus the addition of experienced midfielder Steve Sidwell.

The grinding nature of life in the Championship has begun again – with a shocking result already upon us on opening day – and it promises to be a wild ride as always, with everything on the line.

Middlesbrough changes mind on new striker twice, Rhodes deal off

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Proper treatment of players is often a talking point during transfer windows. With teams wheeling and dealing, often up to the last minute, players can often be left in the dark about where their final destination will be.

Championship side Middlesbrough is suddenly under fire in the player treatment department.

According to multiple reports across England, first from The Telegraph’s John Percy, Middlesbrough was on the verge of completing the purchase of Blackburn strike Jordan Rhodes until they decided to call off the deal at the last second. This comes days after their reported attempts to secure Fulham frontman Ross McCormack that didn’t come to fruition either.

[ WATCH: Transfer Deadline Day show live, Monday, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra ]

Percy writes that Rhodes had met with the club on Saturday, but that Sunday morning Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson “had a dramatic change of heart.” The cancelled deal left the 25-year-old “baffled and disappointed” according to the Daily Mail, and puts him in a very awkward situation back at Blackburn.

Middlesbrough released a statement immediately following the reports that simply stated they had “held talks with Blackburn Rovers striker Jordan Rhodes over the weekend but have failed to agree terms,” which was the same ending the McCormack deal came to.

With one of the best defensive records in the Championship over the last two years – just 14 goals allowed this season – Middlesbrough sits in a promotion position at the moment, but has been looking to bolster its goalscoring abilities for the last few weeks. It seems they can make up their minds about who to acquire, because hanging both McCormack and Rhodes out to dry isn’t exactly a good look. It’s possible agents or team valuation had a something to do with both deals falling apart, but having advanced so far in talks twice only for both to fail appears to cast the club in poor light.

They could now go back to McCormack, except that oops, he’s probably staying at Fulham.

Cardiff, Blackburn draw as Championship season opens this weekend

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A 1-1 draw between recently relegated Cardiff City and Blackburn Rovers has opened the English second-tier season.

The Bluebirds along with Fulham and Norwich City are looking to make a quick return to the Premier League, and all three have made tilled their roster completely in an attempt to vault back up.

In addition, Wolverhampton Wanderers continue their roller coaster run through English soccer, with their plummet down the ranks behind them and back in the Championship.

The fixtures for opening weekend:

Blackburn 1-1 Cardiff City
Ipswich Town v Fulham
Wolves v Norwich City (Sunday)
Brentford v Charlton
Brighton v Sheffield Wednesday
Derby County v Rotherham
Huddersfield Town v Bournemouth
Middlesborough v Birmingham City
Millwall v Leeds United
Nottingham Forest v Blackpool
Watford v Bolton
Wigan v Reading

For the teams we saw struggle on NBC last season, the first season down is the most important. Teams that don’t jump straight back up – like Queens Park Rangers did this past year – tend to wallow in the lower tiers for a long time.

Fulham completely churned their roster over, under the watchful eye of Felix Magath who had some strong words for current and former players in his press conference earlier Friday. Gobs of players left, and not all had good things to say about the man in charge.

With the purchase of Ross McCormack along with eight other offseason signings, it’s likely that not a single player who opened last year’s fateful Premier League season will be in their opening day lineup against Ipswich Town. There are more questions than answers right now at Craven Cottage.

Cardiff kicked off their season with a fair draw against Blackburn, bringing to light just how small the talent and skill gap is between the bottom of the Premier League and the middle of the Championship.

Their biggest move in the transfer market may not have been a move at all, but instead the ability to keep hold of star keeper David Marshall. The 29-year-old was by one of the few bright spots in last year’s failed campaign, and he was linked with a number of Premier League clubs. Otherwise, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did little in the market, instead standing still as both Gary Medel and Jordan Mutch moved on.

Norwich City have flown the most under the radar of the three dropped clubs. They lost strike flop Ricky van Wolfswinkel to St. Etienne, and replaced him with journeymen Kyle Lafferty and Lewis Grabban.  They have kept Leroy Fer despite outside interest, but could not hold onto winger Robert Snodgrass who moved to Hull City over the summer.

Will any of the three be back in the Premier League next season? It’s a long 42-match marathon, but the race is under way.  24 clubs, three lucrative spots. Who will make it up to the top flight?