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Could Joe Hart return to the England squad?

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Gareth Southgate is planning a trip to Turf Moor this Saturday, and that could mean big things for 31-year-old goalkeeper Joe Hart.

The former Manchester City starter and longtime England #1 has fallen out of the setup after a dip in form that led to not only his fall down the England depth chart, but also his exit from the Etihad. After losing his starting spot at City in 2016, a loan move to Italian club Torino was the beginning of the end for Hart’s international job.

Or was it?

Jordan Pickford, who was one of the best goalkeepers at the World Cup this summer, is firmly entrenched in the starting spot. However, there are murky waters surrounding the backup job, and that’s where Hart could find himself back in the mix.

England boss Gareth Southgate has insisted publicly that the position is open for the taking. Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy is expected to be the man Southgate calls upon during the October international break, but that’s nowhere near set in stone. Burnely’s Nick Pope, who served as backup at the World Cup without seeing game action, is out injured for a significant amount of time with a dislocated shoulder. Jack Butland‘s stock has dropped after Stoke City was relegated, and now the Potters toil in the bottom third of the Championship standings. Fulham shot-stopper Marcus Bettinelli was called up in early September, but he did not feature, and the 26-year-old hardly even has the confidence of his own club manager.

So, could Hart earn himself a spot in the rotation? With Pope injured, the 31-year-old has stepped in at Burnley and performed at a decent level despite just a single point for the club through the first five Premier League matches. With few concrete options, it’s possible a familiar face could be back in the England squad.

Loftus-Cheek says return to Palace “possible”

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Ruben Loftus-Cheek knows the hurdles he must cross to see playing time at Chelsea, it’s just a matter of execution at this point.

The England midfielder told the media that he has kept in constant contact with Blues manager Maurizio Sarri both while at the club and over the international break, and has specific instructions on how to improve.

“I’ve spoken a lot with Sarri in the past couple of weeks and he’s told me I need to learn tactically and his ways in training,” Loftus-Cheek said ahead of Chelsea’s matchup against Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge. “The quicker I get that then the more opportunities I will get to play.”

Still just 22 years old, Loftus-Cheek spent all of last season on loan at Crystal Palace, and earned a spot on the England World Cup squad. He was fantastic over the summer as Gareth Southgate deployed him in a true two-way central midfield role, utilized in distribution and attacking progression. However, he has yet to earn a consistent place in Sarri’s Chelsea first-team.

“There are a lot of games coming up,” Loftus-Cheek said, “so I think there will be more opportunities coming for players that are not playing every week. But I’m not sure when I am going to play. It is just down to me working hard in training.”

The 22-year-old has 34 career appearances for the Blues, but only six of those have been Premier League starts, and he has completed the full 90 minute in league play just twice. Eventually, playing time may become more important than where it comes from. It’s plausible that Loftus-Cheek could go looking for minutes back at Crystal Palace, as the Eagles have an open domestic loan slot available.  “Possibly, but it is still far away,” Loftus-Cheek said about the possibility of returning to Palace. “There are still a lot of games to play and I just have to see what happens. Right now I am at Chelsea and my focus is at Chelsea and learning at Chelsea. That is in the future and we will deal with that when it comes.”

Aldewerireld says he never wanted to leave Spurs last summer

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Toby Alderweireld has revealed that he was never close to leaving Tottenham Hotspur this summer, despite reported interest from Manchester United, after he was informed that “Tottenham wanted to keep me.”

[ MORE: Moshiri increases Everton stake, plans more by the summer ]

Speaking about the summer-long saga for the first time, Alderweireld classified reports that he was wanted to force through a move away from Tottenham as “not true.” An agreement was never reached between the two clubs, however, so he can say what he likes without ever having had to actually make a choice one way or the other.

The Belgian center back has one year remaining on his contract, but the current deal has a one-year extension option which features a $32.5-million release clause. With another transfer saga looming in nine months’ time, Alderweireld insists his place in Spurs’ first team is the only thing that matters — quotes from Sky Sports:

“Everyone was saying everywhere that I absolutely wanted to leave Tottenham. That’s not true. This summer, I quickly understood Tottenham wanted to keep me.

“So, I had to battle to get my place back in the team. To be in the first team again is a victory for me. I just try to help Tottenham as best I can with my qualities. Regarding my future, everything that was said in the press was not right all the time.

[ MORE: Gareth Southgate stays quiet on new England contract ]

Alderweireld will turn 30 before the end of the 2018-19 season, and while he won’t have a million miles on his body after playing sparingly for two years as he transitioned from Ajax to Atletico Madrid and finally to Southampton before becoming the full-time workhorse at Spurs, his lengthy history of lingering lower-body injuries will give Mauricio Pochettino and Co., the most pause for concern as they weigh up one more potential long-term deal.

Report: Bolton avoid administration, 12-point deduction in 11th hour

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UPDATE: A deal has reportedly been struck, in the final hours, for the loan to be repaid and the club to continue in compliant financial standing. Official announcements still pending.

It’s been six and a half years since Bolton Wanderers were last in the Premier League — relegated to the Championship on May 13, 2012 after 11 seasons in the top flight.

[ MORE: Moshiri increases Everton stake, plans more by the summer ]

Since falling out of the PL on the final day of the 2012-13 season, Bolton have spent five of the last six seasons floundering in the Championship (bottom-half finishes in four out of five), with a brief stint in League One two seasons ago after finishing 24th out of 24 teams in 2015-16.

After returning to the second division last summer, Bolton managed to stave off relegation by one place and two points in May. They have started the new season brightly, picking up 11 points from the first six games — good enough for eighth place a month into the campaign.

That’s about as far as the good news goes, though, as the northwestern club appears headed for administration, complete with a 12-point deduction and a two-year transfer embargo. They will drop to the bottom of the table with 1 points total of -1.

[ MORE: Gareth Southgate stays quiet on new England contract ]

In financial trouble for quite some time, Bolton have flirted with administration in the past. Current owner Ken Anderson revealed on Tuesday that an official announcement could come inside 24 hours after a dispute over loan repayment went unresolved. According to Anderson, the finance company which lent him $5 million to keep the club afloat has rejected a repayment offer of the initial $5 million plus what Anderson called “substantial interest” — quotes from the Guardian:

“I am very disappointed that Stuart Wilson and Michael Henson of BluMarble Capital Ltd have decided to reject my offer to repay the loan they originally made to the club through Sportshield Ltd and place the club in administration.

“The amount received by the club was [$5 million] and I offered to repay this plus substantial interest. Unfortunately, this offer was rejected.”

“[BluMarble] will now need to fund the club administration going forward, which will take a minimum of three months and will automatically put the club in a two-year transfer embargo and a minimum immediate points deduction of 12 points.”

“In my opinion, their actions will substantially reduce the value of the club in respect of any future sale and will make it far more difficult to find a future investor/buyer.”

Moshiri increases Everton stake, plans more by the summer

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Farhad Moshiri has been the leading shareholder of Everton since he purchased 49.9 of the Premier League club’s shares in February 2016.

[ MORE: Gareth Southgate stays quiet on new England contract ]

The Iranian businessman has invested heavily in the first-team squad (more than $400 million on transfers over five windows) while forging full-speed ahead to build a new $385-million stadium on the Mersey riverfront. In short, he has done everything he promised 31 months ago — everything that the majority of new owners promise upon takeover, but oftentimes fail to do.

Thus, it comes as little surprise that Moshiri jumped at the chance to snap up an additional 18.7 percent of the shareholding, bringing his total to 68.6 percent. In an official statement, the club revealed that Moshiri “is expected to increase to 77.2 percent no later than July 2019.”

[ MORE: Brazil’s Tite: Trump should be “more informed” before speaking ]

The only — but key — piece of the puzzle missing during Moshiri’s time in charge of the league is, of course, a trophy. Having finished seventh and eighth in the two full seasons since he bought the club, the Toffees continue to be just as consistent — but, ultimately inconsequential — as they have been for the last dozen years.