Ryan Giggs

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James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Bale hits back at critics

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The Gareth Bale saga has taken many twists and turns over the last 12 months. Perhaps the biggest twist/turn has been in the past few weeks, as Bale came into Real Madrid preseason fit and ready to go, and he’s started Real’s first three games of the season, scoring a pair of goals in a 2-2 draw with Villarreal last weekend.

Speaking in front of the media for the first time since his rumored transfer to China fell through, as well as all the back and forth rumors between him wanting to stay and Zidane wanting him out this summer, Bale hit out at the critics.

[READ: Strengths and Weaknesses of USMNT]

“I don’t read anything, I don’t listen to anyone,” Bale said. “People don’t know the situation. I had a good summer holiday, I didn’t think about it too much, I just kept my head down and worked hard in training. The things that happened will stay private.

“It’s not been ideal, but I’ve been there before, and I know how to deal with it. I had a good preseason in terms of training, and I know that things can turn quickly in football. I feel good, I feel stronger than ever. I’m in very good shape. I’m professional. I’m paid to play football, and you will have ups and downs. If you keep working hard, things will turn, and you will get rewarded.”

Of course, by saying that he doesn’t read anything or listen to anyone, he’s admitting that he has seen the reports and heard plenty of rumors. In 2019, it’s impossible to stay away from it, whether it’s his Real Madrid teammates asking him what’s up or family members wanting to know what the truth is.

However, the most important part of his quote was in the second part. If true that Bale is feeling stronger than ever, that can be massive both for Wales and Real Madrid. Real Madrid needed Bale to play a big role with Cristiano Ronaldo gone, but the winger failed to take the next step in his career. It may have been unfair for him to fill Ronaldo’s shoes, but the continued injuries and poor form didn’t help his case.

When Bale admits that he’s training better, and is likely taking better care of his body, as well as not wading into the transfer rumors, that’s a good sign for him as a player. It means his focus is truly on his game and that he’s working his hardest to bring another La Liga title to Real Madrid, and to get Wales into Euro 2020.

Salford City promoted to the Football League

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Salford City’s dream has become a reality.

The team backed by Manchester United and Premier League legends David Beckham, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Nicky Butt, plus billionaire Peter Lim, won promotion to League Two on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

Salford beat AFC Fylde 3-0 in the National League playoff final to clinch their first-ever promotion to the fourth-tier of English soccer. Head coach Graham Alexander took over last summer and was handed a huge budget to guide Salford to promotion.

Mani Dieseruvwe, Carl Piergianni and Ibou Touray scored the goals for Salford, as their incredible rise continues and the United legends celebrated in the stands at Wembley at the final whistle.

Backed by Lim’s money and the expertise and contacts of Neville and Co. behind-the-scenes, Salford have achieved four promotions in the last five seasons to secure their spot as one of the 92 Football League teams for the 2019-20 season.

Salford’s aim is to at least reach the Championship, the second-tier of English soccer, as the Lancashire club aim to become one of the best supported teams in the Manchester area as they offer something completely different to the giants of Man United and Man City nearby.

David Beckham joins Salford City ownership

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Money and influence go a long way, and Manchester United’s “Class of ’92” has a lot of it, so don’t be surprised that Salford City is on the rise.

[ MORE: Latest on missing Sala flight ]

David Beckham has now bought into the English fifth-tier club, subject to FA approval, meaning the celebrated United class now has a stake in Salford City with the club fighting for its first promotion into the Football League.

“The Ammies” have been promoted three times since being taken over by Ryan Giggs, Phil Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, and Gary Neville. Beckham is the owner of Inter Miami CF, expected to debut in Major League Soccer in 2020.

The Class of ’92 released this statement:

“From the very beginning we wanted David to be involved and be with us on this incredible journey however circumstances and commitments didn’t allow that. Now the time is right and is another exciting time in Salford City’s history. 

“It is important to emphasize that nothing will change in the day to day operations of the club but to have us all together was always the vision. We grew up in Salford, carved our careers here and that’s why we are doing what we are doing at Salford City.”

Salford City is a point back of the National League leaders Leyton Orient. First place gets automatic promotion to League Two, while second through seventh take part in the promotion playoffs.

The club does employ a Rooney, Adam, but the Irish striker is not related to Wayne.

Wales boss Giggs claims he wont give in to commercial pressure to play Bale

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Wales is among the field of the China Cup, an international tournament in Guangxi, China, to play a pair of international friendlies this week.

New manager Ryan Giggs admitted there is outside pressure to play Gareth Bale in the event at some point, but admitted he will not put the Real Madrid star at risk just to appease sponsors. In fact, the only pressure he’s feeling is from himself.

“Any risks, stupid risks, I won’t be taking,” Giggs said. “But it’s also my first game and I want to get my best team out there.”

Wales missed out on the 2018 World Cup, and there’s little to gain from having Bale out on the field the entire time. Wales will play China in the semifinals on Thursday, and then meets the winner of Uruguay and Czech Republic next week.

According to reports, Wales would lose nearly $150,000 of its $1.5 million participation fee if Bale did not play.

“I’ve not spoken to [Real Madrid manager Zinedine] Zidane, but I’ve spoken to Gareth,” Giggs said. “I’ve been in contact with him regularly in the last few months and I’m not stupid because it’s an important part of the season.”

Bale has been smothered by injuries – mostly calf problems – during his Real Madrid career, missing a stretch of over two months through October and November with hamstring issues. He has been fit since, but Zidane rarely risks Bale for the full 90 minutes. In fact, Bale’s only three full 90’s of the 2018 calendar year have all come in the last three weeks.

The 28-year-old has three goals in his last five La Liga games, including one off the bench in a 6-3 win over Girona last weekend.