WSL kicks off, Ecuador’s World Cup relief, Haaland and more: football countdown – as it happened | Premier League

Key events

That’s the lot for today’s weekend football countdown. Thanks for reading – below are today’s pieces, including 10 things to look out for in the Premier League. I will be back very shortly with tonight’s clockwatch. Good luck!

Here, simply because I thought of it in reference to the recent All-Star Game idea, is Todd Boehly’s vision:

Eddie Howe has been having a chat about VAR and the goal that Newcastle had ruled out in the 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace last week: “We’ve had quite a few discussions. It’s always a difficult one … it’s football, there’ll always be controversy and decisions you disagree with,” Howe said.

“It’s good they came out and admitted it was an error. For me it was clear and obvious.

“When the ref goes to the monitor they have to go with an open mind … unfortunately the referee has listened to Lee Mason and the guys in the VAR studio and that’s changed his decision to a negative effect.”

Premier League fixtures

Friday (All times BST)
Aston Villa v Southampton (8pm)
Nottingham Forest v Fulham (8pm)

Saturday
Wolves v Manchester City (12.30pm)
Newcastle v Bournemouth (3pm)
Tottenham v Leicester (5.30pm)

Sunday
Brentford v Arsenal (12noon)
Everton v West Ham (2.15pm)

Speaking of the WSL, an email arrives from Ellie Newman:

“Evening Luke! Absolutely thrilled to be heading to Meadow Park with my wife to watch our first ever WSL match. Normally we’d try to arrive close to kick-off, but we’re so obsessed with this team that we’re going to arrive an hour and a half early so we can watch our fav Euro stars warm up. Can’t wait.”

Arsenal v Brighton should be a good one – enjoy it.

Here, from Suzanne Wrack, are the season previews for Arsenal and Brighton, tonight’s protagonists at Meadow Park:

It’s not long until we will close the blog for this afternoon, so I’m now going to shamelessly steal Stuart’s work from much earlier, and remind you of the fixtures –starting with the weekend’s lineup in the WSL:

Friday (all times BST)
Arsenal v Brighton (Meadow Park, 7.30pm)

Saturday
Manchester United v Reading (Leigh Sports Village, 12noon)

Sunday
Aston Villa v Manchester City (Villa Park, 12.30pm)
West Ham v Everton (Chigwell Construction Stadium, 3pm)
Leicester v Tottenham (King Power Stadium, 3pm)
Liverpool v Chelsea (Prenton Park, 5pm)

David Beckham has been spotted in the queue:

“The former England football captain David Beckham joined the queue for the Queen’s lying-in-state on Friday, saying it was “special to be here”.

“He joined other high-profile figures to have been seen waiting to pay tribute this week, including the former prime minister Theresa May, This Morning presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield and the Good Morning Britain host Susanna Reid.”

David Beckham and a policeman.
David Beckham and a policeman. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Nottingham Forest are chasing Portsmouth’s 17-year record of most debutants in a Premier League season, PA analysis shows.”

I’m not sure Forest are actively chasing it, but yes, I see what you mean. The article continues:

“Fourteen of Steve Cooper’s summer signings have made their league debuts in the opening six matches of 2022-23.

“With the deadline day arrivals Willy Boly, Loic Bade and Serge Aurier yet to feature – and the January transfer window still to come – Forest are on course to overtake Portsmouth’s record of 21 debuts in a single season, set in 2005-06.”

Meanwhile, on Forest’s Twitter, here’s a word from the manager Steve Cooper on the letters he receives from lifelong fans, and why that reminds me of the importance of his job:

All as one ❤️

Hear more from our Head Coach over on Forest TV ahead of tonight’s game 💬

— Nottingham Forest FC (@NFFC) September 16, 2022

There are five Premier League matches on this Saturday and Sunday following the mourning-Queen Elizabeth-related postponements.

Here is your one-stop shop for team news, predicted lineups and all that match preview jazz:

We’ve already had some quotes from Bruno Lage on Diego Costa, but I’ve found some more, and you can never have enough quotes about a tough, uncompromising (AKA rather dirty) centre-forward returning to the Premier League, can you?

Asked if his side had been too nice in the past and if Costa would change that, Lage said: “That’s a good point. If you want to press and be more aggressive, sometimes you cannot be too nice. You need to be aggressive in the duels and he [Costa] said that to me. ‘I know you ask about my profile, my personality, I am one of the best guys outside the pitch but inside the pitch I am very hard’.

Diego Costa, definitely not diving, for Chelsea v Liverpool in 2017.
Diego Costa, definitely not diving, for Chelsea v Liverpool in 2017. Photograph: Dave Thompson/AP

“That is the kind of man I want also. It was a simple talk and it was very easy to convince him to join us.”

Costa has not played since leaving Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro in January, however, and the 33-year-old admitted he would need “two to three weeks to get back in shape”.

“We are very happy with him. We know he needs time not to be fit, because he is fit, but to be ready to compete at this level. It is his destiny (to return to the Premier League),” Lage added. (Reuters)

John Brewin rides to the rescue with Friday’s Fiver:

The Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou has expressed his wish for supporters to respect a minute’s applause in memory of the Queen before Sunday’s game against St Mirren.

The Paisley club confirmed they planned the tribute for their home game, which comes days after Celtic became the subject of Uefa disciplinary proceedings after supporters displayed an anti-Crown banner during Wednesday’s Champions League draw against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Asked if he had a message for supporters ahead of Sunday’s planned tribute, Postecoglou said: “I have the same message to our fans that we always have. As I said before the game (against Shakhtar), we will abide by the protocols. We wore black armbands on Wednesday night.

“I think there’s a minute’s applause, we will abide by whatever obligations and responsibilities we have as a football club. We will do that in a respectful manner. We want our supporters to do the same.”

The Arsenal head coach, Mikel Arteta, remained tight-lipped regarding the availability of Ukraine international Oleksandr Zinchenko for Sunday’s Premier League trip to Brentford despite the defender’s national team saying he had picked up a calf injury.

Zinchenko, 25, missed games against Fulham and Aston Villa with a knee sprain but returned to feature in Arsenal’s most recent fixtures against Manchester United in the league and FC Zurich in the Europa League.

Ukraine’s FA said on Friday that Zinchenko had withdrawn from international duty after sustaining the injury during training at Arsenal and would be sidelined for two weeks, missing Ukraine’s Nations League matches later this month.

Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Arsenal’s Oleksandr Zinchenko. Photograph: Dylan Martinez/Reuters

“We have to wait until tomorrow to make a decision,” Arteta said on Friday. “What we have decided to do for international week doesn’t mean it will be the same this weekend.”

Arteta added he would provide an update on Thomas Partey’s fitness after Arsenal’s training session on Saturday. The Ghana midfielder has missed the last four games across all competitions with a thigh problem. (Reuters)

And here’s a longer read, courtesy of Kit Holden, on the surprise early leaders in the Bundesliga – Union Berlin.

Union Berlin fans in Braga for the Europa League on Thursday.
Union Berlin fans in Braga for their Europa League tie on Thursday. Photograph: Hugo Delgado/EPA

Louise Taylor

Louise Taylor

Eddie Howe believes there is still time for Callum Wilson to earn a place in England’s squad for the World Cup in November. A thigh injury has dictated that the Newcastle centre-forward has not been named in Gareth Southgate’s squad for the Nations League games against Italy and Germany, when he was widely expected to receive a recall. Instead England’s manager has called up Brentford’s former Newcastle striker Ivan Toney in what appears a key audition for the role of Harry Kane’s principal understudy.

Ed Aarons

Ed Aarons

Bournemouth’s owner, Maxim Demin, is in talks with a consortium led by Bill Foley, the owner of ice hockey’s Vegas Golden Knights, over a potential sale for about £150m. If successful, it would mean that more than half the Premier League’s clubs have minority or majority US shareholders.

Let’s have a quick recap of our football stories from today. Handy if, like me, you weren’t stationed by a computer or a mobile phone earlier on.

As mentioned by Stuart below about an hour ago, Luis Enrique announced his Spain squad via an eye-catching clip of him riding a bike earlier.

We’ve now done a news story on it, so clearly it’s a PR win for Spain’s content and social media team. ¡Vamos!

What are your hopes and expectations for the action this weekend?

You can always email me or tweet with your thoughts.

Speaking this morning, David Moyes talked about what it means to be heading back to Everton with West Ham this weekend: “It was a massive part of my career … 11 and a half years … I’ve only got thanks and good feelings for Everton, for what they did for me and my family.

“But I’m West Ham manage, my job’s to try and win, and that’s what I’ll try to do.”

“Lamps”, as some of you like to call him, also had a word about the All-Star game idea floated by Todd Boehly the other day.

“I think practically it’s very difficult because of our calendar & schedule here … To go and play a game like that is potentially high-risk with injury,” Lampard said.

“[But] I think it’s a fair conversation. When you start thinking of the players that will be involved you go: wow, yeah, that would be interesting.”

He also added a caveat about how it’s important to keep the traditions of the domestic game.

The Everton manager Frank Lampard insists he is putting no pressure on fit-again Dominic Calvert-Lewin as the striker prepares to return to action.

“He knows he has support and advice from me and I try not to give him that pressure on top of that. I just try to talk football with him,” said Lampard. “I know what he can give us because he gave it to us at the back end of last season and he is experienced enough to deal with it. All we want is Dominic fit and firing but it is difficult with injuries as it can easily happen when you get one and then another one comes.

“He’s had that period and I just hope to see him playing regular football. He is not under any undue pressure from myself and the staff. We just want to see him in the best condition, so he can help us. Let’s all work in the right direction to get him fit and release some of that pressure by hopefully the team being strong with or without Dominic.” (PA)

Ecuador on track for 2022 World Cup after Chile’s appeal rejected

Chile has lost its appeal to replace Ecuador at the World Cup in Qatar, but Friday’s verdict by Fifa will likely lead the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, reports AP. Fifa dismissed Chile’s argument that Ecuador player Byron Castillo was Colombian and ineligible to play in World Cup qualifying games. Castillo played in eight of them for Ecuador.

Fifa said its appeal judges “deemed that on the basis of the documents presented, the player was to be considered as holding permanent Ecuadorian nationality in accordance” with the country’s legal statutes.

The verdict, which upholds a Fifa disciplinary ruling from June, keeps Ecuador on track to play Qatar in the opening game of the World Cup in Doha on 20 November. The Netherlands and Senegal are also in Group A. However, Chile’s legal challenge may continue.

The Chilean soccer federation can now appeal against Fifa’s verdict to Cas in Lausanne, Switzerland. Sport’s highest court can organise an urgent hearing and ruling in the nine weeks left until the World Cup starts. Chile claimed to have evidence proving Castillo is Colombian and should never have played for Ecuador. Chile prepared its case after the World Cup draw was made on April 1, and after FIFA and Qatari organisers sold thousands of tickets and accommodation rooms to Ecuador fans.

Had Ecuador forfeited the eight games Castillo played, Chile would have risen to the fourth automatic qualification place in the South American qualifying group and Ecuador would have dropped out of contention.

Far from the most pressing news of the day but interesting nonetheless. Borussia Dortmund are off on tour to the USA next year, reports Reuters:

Bundesliga heavyweights Borussia Dortmund will tour the United States next year as the club looks to tap into the growing North American soccer market ahead of the 2026 World Cup, the club said on Friday. The German club will tour south east Asia during this year’s World Cup in Qatar from 21 November to 1 December and will take in Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham (centre left) celebrates scoring against Manchester City with Mats Hummels.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham (centre left) celebrates scoring against Manchester City with Mats Hummels. Photograph: Craig Brough/Reuters

“North America but also greater America are very important markets for us,” Dortmund managing director Carsten Cramer told an international media roundtable. “It is a logical consequence that we will go back to the United States next summer. “We are happy we made our plans for south east Asia this year and the United States next year. It won’t be the last time we will go.”

The 2026 World Cup will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. Cramer said growing social media engagement figures for Dortmund meant there was increasing interest in the club in North America.

Thanks Stuart and good afternoon everyone. Here’s a little more from Emma Hayes, the Chelsea Women head coach, before their WSL opener at Liverpool. They were meant to kick off against West Ham last Sunday but that was postponed following the Queen’s death. Anyway, Hayes insists it was the correct call for football to be called off last weekend while other sports continued:

“I think the response is the same for every human being, player or not,” Hayes said. “Our country has lost unbelievable service from a person who has given absolutely everything to her country during her reign.

“For most of us, particularly that have lived within that, we have experienced no other monarch. The conversations that take place in dressing rooms I think are the same conversations that take place in your workplace, which is nothing but the respect and the humble gratitude for someone who has done so much for this country.” (Quotes from PA Media)

A little more from Bruno Lage on Diego Costa …

Let’s see, we have one more day, let’s see if he can be available or not. When Sasa [Kalajdzic] got injured Diego was available, it was a time to talk to him and convince him to come to us, so we are very happy with him. We also know he needs time to be ready. He is fit, there are no problems but he needs to be ready to compete at this level.

Our hope is to get him ready to compete at this level and I think we can bring the work with Costa because that’s what we need. We need a reference in the box, we need a guy to compete with Raúl [Jimenez] and Diego has that profile.”

I now make way for Luke McLaughlin. Thanks for reading and writing!

Back on Brewin’s international brothers call-to-action, this from Harriet Osborn on another pair of siblings who faced off representing different countries …

Alex and Christian Roldán, who both play for the Seattle Sounders in MLS, faced each other while playing for El Salvador and the US respectively in Concacaf World Cup qualifying last fall (and in other occasions in the past).

Ding ding ding! Here’s a little more on the Sounders’ website.

Going back a bit, to the earlier Spain squad announcement …

Turns out Luis Enrique revealed it while in the saddle … I bet those in charge of superimposing names on to the hillside were pleased there were no withdrawals between editing and posting.

“Mister, with this team we will surely go smoothly!”

Brentford’s Thomas Frank on Ivan Toney’s England call-up.

I’m very, very pleased. A nice little touch to the story: Gareth texted me in the morning and said ‘Thomas: you can bring the news to Ivan.’ I think it’s not often that we as managers or head coaches get to bring the news. It’s a lot of times that [we have to tell players] they are not playing, and it’s hard on them – 90% suffering and 10% joy. That was definitely a very joyful moment. It’s not often Ivan is speechless, but he was laughing and just very, very happy.

He’s a very, very complicated guy – the journey has definitely not been straightforward for him. That is incredible, and for the club.

Frank’s side host Arsenal in the Sunday lunchtime game.

Chelsea women open their title defence against promoted Liverpool on Sunday. In light of the bumper summer for women’s football, manager Emma Hayes was asked about what’s changed since she took the job in 2012 …

I don’t think I was doing press conferences. I don’t think I was doing any press at all. I’ve aged … my jokes have got worse, I think that’s fair to say. I remember there was a day when all we wanted was press – I’m just ready for a barnstorming season.

On the postponed start to the season, she added:

I think post-Covid everyone’s adapted to changes, games being called off – I think quite rightly, in honour of her majesty – I think we’ve experienced what that’s like. It’s been a very sombre week, very overwhelming to see the coverage regarding the buildup to the funeral. It’ll be fitting on Sunday for the women’s season to start and hopefully the fans and the players get the opportunity to pay respects in the way we know best – on the football pitch.

Stuart back again ’ere for a spell, as John chases a rickshaw of harissa halloumi wraps up the road.

Thomas Frank and Emma Hayes have just been parping. Bear with me while I crack my transcription knuckles …

Roberto Martinez has named his Belgium squad for matches against Wales and the Netherlands. The headline name – and it’s a good name – is uncapped teenager Zeno Debast of Anderlecht, a potential Big Vinny Kompany of the future?

Martinez also picked Jason Denayer but he will not play either game because he has not found a new club since leaving Lyon at the end of last season. Instead he will only train.

No Romelu Lukaku as he is currently injured.

Goalkeepers: Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Racng Strasbourg)

Defenders: Toby Alderweireld (Royal Antwerp), Dedryck Boyata (Club Brugge), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Zeno Debast (Anderlecht), Jason Denayer (unattached), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Arthur Theate (Stade Rennes), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht)

Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin), Alexis Saelamaekers (AC Milan), Amadou Onana (Everton), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid

Forwards: Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Charles De Ketelaere (AC Milan), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Dries Mertens (Galatasaray), Lois Openda (Racing Lens), Leandro Trossard (Brighton & Hove Albion)

Wolves play Manchester City in the Saturday lunchtime fixture and there’s a chance Diego Costa might get to put it about a bit.

Bruno Lage says ‘Let’s see’, when asked if Diego Costa will play for @Wolves tomorrow. “We have one more day.” Raul Jimenez definitely out.

— Simon Stone (@sistoney67) September 16, 2022

Allan Saint-Maximin wins Premier League goal of the month

With this one. Good goal and all that, but can’t help thinking back to Sir Trevor Brooking and the phrase “shinned it”. Too harsh?

Good news for Liverpool/bad news for Thiago, who has been omitted from Spain’s 25-man squad by Luis Enrique. Barcelona’s Ansu Fati is the other big-name omission. Sergio Ramos was on the long list but is not picked, to nobody’s particular surprise. He won’t be adding to his 180 (!) caps.

Nico Williams takes the call, while his brother, Inaki, has declared for Ghana. Could the two brothers end up facing each other in a major tournament as, from memory, Kevin Prince-Boateng once did for Germany when his brother Jerome played for Germany at Soccer City in 2010.

The Xhaka brothers, Granit and Taulant faced each other at Euro 2016 when Switzerland beat Albania 1-0 in Lens. Any other examples come to mind?

Two of the goalkeepers come from Brighton and Brentford. Our League dominates.

Goalkeepers: Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez, David Raya

Defenders: Dani Carvajal, Eric García, Jordi Alba, Cesar Azpilicueta, Diego Llorente, Pau Torres, Jose Gaya, Hugo Guillamon

Midfielders: Rodri, Sergio Busquets, Koke, Gavi, Carlos Soler, Pedri, Marcos Llorente

Forwards: Alvaro Morata, Borja Iglesias, Ferran Torres, Pablo Sarabia, Nico Williams, Marcos Asensio, Yeremy Pino

Antonio Conte wants to see more from Yves Bissouma, snapped up from Brighton last season after playing very well against Tottenham. He’s started just one game so far.

He will be used more during a seven-week spell from October 1 where they will play 12 times in the Premier League and Champions League.

Per PA Media

The only (new) player that is struggling a bit with the tactical aspect is Bissouma, but also he is improving a lot in every aspect, so I am sure when we start again and play 12 games, for sure he is another player I can count on.

When you have the possibility to work, to have more time, especially with new players, you can bring all the players into our idea of football. For sure in this first part of the season I wanted to play with the old players because they knew very well which is our idea of football, but now I think we are doing good steps with Richy, with Clement (Lenglet) and with Ivan Perisic.

With Bissouma, we are trying to accelerate this process, but for sure when you arrive in a team well organised with an idea of football, you need a bit of time to go into this idea of football. But I think that in the next 12 games, I have at least three players that I can count on much more in the way that I did in these seven (sic) games.

The World Cup is closer than you think, and King Louis van Gaal is fully aware of that, having cut his Netherlands squad down to 25 for this month’s Nations League games against Poland and Belgium. He had named a preliminary squad of 32 a fortnight ago but trimmed it down, keeping the uncapped trio of goalkeepers Andries Noppert and Remko Pasveer and the Ajax Amsterdam attacker Kenneth Taylor. But Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk, who could also play for Belgium, has not made it.

“This is the last chance to see the players at work before we have to name the World Cup selection,* said Van Gaal in a statement, per Reuters. “As I’ve said before, the preparation time before the World Cup is extremely limited so therefore we have to use all the time we have available. After these games we won’t be together until 14 November, one week before our first game at the World Cup.”

Goalkeepers: Jasper Cillessen (NEC Nijmegen), Mark Flekken (Freiburg), Andries Noppert (Heerenveen), Remko Pasveer (Ajax Amsterdam)

Defenders: Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax Amsterdam), Matthijs de Ligt (Bayern Munich), Stefan de Vrij (Inter Milan), Denzel Dumfries (Inter Milan), Tyrell Malacia (Manchester United), Bruno Martins Indi (AZ Alkmaar), Devyne Rensch, Jurrien Timber (both Ajax Amsterdam), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)

Midfielders: Steven Berghuis (Ajax Amsterdam), Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Davy Klaassen (Ajax Amsterdam), Teun Koopmeiners (Atalanta), Kenneth Taylor (Ajax Amsterdam)

Forwards: Steven Bergwijn (Ajax Amsterdam), Memphis Depay (Barcelona), Cody Gakpo (PSV Eindhoven), Vincent Janssen (Royal Antwerp), Wout Weghorst (Besiktas).

Mikel Arteta named August manager of the month

Well done, Mikel Arteta. Four wins from five, and Arsenal fans are now fully trusting the process. They play Brentford on Sunday, a fixture that brings back bad memories from last season.

And more from Eddie Eddie Eddie from Louise Taylor, on the hopes of Callum Wilson making the World Cup squad.

I feel for Callum because he’s not in the England squad,” said Newcastle’s manager, who, conscious of the 30-year-old’s tendency to pick up injuries, signed Alexander Isak for £59m from Real Sociedad last month. “But it will just fuel his motivation, it will fire him even more, so when Callum returns to our team he will show how good he is.

Although close to full fitness, Wilson is expected to miss out on Saturday’s match with Howe’s former club Bournemouth at St James’ Park but should return after the international break.

I think there’s time for Callum to make the World Cup squad,’ said Howe. “And I know Gareth feels the same. What does he have to do? He has to return and score and be consistent in his availability. Maybe he has to have a bit of luck somewhere else to make that plane.

Eddie Howe has been speaking about injuries, and the arrival of Loris Karius at Newcastle after a freak injury to Karl Darlow.

The injury to Darlow is a real strange one. He was just training with the goalkeepers and twisted an ankle. So, of course, with that news and the squad being open at that stage we decided it was wise to bring in somebody with more experience to complement the keepers we have.

Loris was the outstanding candidate when we looked at the goalkeepers available to us. He is a really good age and has had some incredible experiences in his career.

Bruno Guimaraes, Allan Saint-Maximin and Callum Wilson all have injury problems but Guimaraes is the likeliest to start against Bournemouth.

Naturally when you have injuries like we did have, more time is beneficial but the circumstances around that game being cancelled were immensely sad.

Here’s our story on that Bournemouth takeover, penned by Ed Aarons.

A group led by Foley, who is also chairman of the insurance company Fidelity National Financial and the investment company Cannae Holdings, is understood to have begun exclusive negotiations with Demin last week over a potential deal for the club, who were promoted from the Championship last season. Demin, who is Russia-born but a British citizen, has been the sole shareholder at Bournemouth since 2019, when he repurchased a 25% stake he had sold to the company PEAK6 Investments.

John Brewin

Well, hello there, been a while since I manned the old banter blog, and we have an action-packed afternoon of news and views to come. Well, probably.

Plenty more managers are shortly to have a little sit and a natter with the assembled media. John Brewin is a noted lover of this kind of thing, so he’s insisted I depart and hand this blog over to him. Good day!

Erling Haaland is August’s Premier League player of the month!

No roaring shock, there, is it? Nine goals from five league matches in August, including two hat-tricks for Manchester City’s laughably effective Norwegian.

He’s now up to 13 goals in all competitions this season. Anyone betting against him reaching a half-century at this point? I’m certainly not.

Interim Bournemouth manager Gary O’Neil, you should not be surprised to hear, hasn’t got a huge amount to say about a potential takeover.

He said: “Obviously I am not involved in any discussions like that. I have been hard at work over on the other side, on the grass … My wife and kids will tell you, every minute of my day so far [since the postponed Brighton game] is Newcastle, either on a laptop or on the grass with the lads.”

And his findings before Saturday’s trip to the north-east? “Newcastle are a very good side. Every game I have watched, they have been on the front foot, aggressive and caused teams problems, so probably should have more points than they have. I would expect them to be high up the league this year.”

Midfielder David Brooks, who in May was given the all-clear to resume his playing career after stage-two Hodgkin lymphoma, is yet to feature this season and suffered a setback while playing for the club’s under-21s.

O’Neil added: “He had some pain in his hamstring … it’s not unusual for any player who has been off grass long-term. When players come back, there’s always a spell where they need to get their body used to being on the grass. They have to adapt to the stresses of playing football every day. I am not surprised that it’s happened, but I am disappointed for him. We were never going to rush him back, so we’ll see how he is in the coming weeks.”

ICYMI … here’s Suzy Wrack’s video primer on the new WSL season …

Women’s Super League: the players, teams, managers you need to know – video explainer

Speaking yesterday, Southampton’s Ralph Hasenhüttl said it would have been understandable if this weekend’s Premier League fixtures has also been postponed.

“It was, for me, an absolutely clear decision not to play football last weekend and I would also completely understand if we wouldn’t play this weekend because it’s a special moment for this country.”

Of their trip to Villa, Hasenhüttl added: “They are full of high individual quality in the team. After a not so easy start, which is normal in the Premier League, they are starting to play better and I think the last game against Man City showed how good they can be at home.

“It was maybe the worst away game we had last season and it’s a good chance to show we can do it better.”

Tino Livramento and Romeo Lavia remain on the injured list for the Saints.

Steven Gerrard has some calls to make at Aston Villa, before tonight’s match against Southampton. Ollie Watkins has been “a little bit unwell”, while his two main goalkeepers – Emiliano Martínez and Robin Olsen – both missed training on Thursday. Gerrard was hopeful Martínez “will pull through … I think he’ll be available”.

Gerrard added: “We’re on the end of a real positive performance against Manchester City, a good strong team performance, and of course you want to back that up as soon as you can.”

Important Ian Rush news: the former Chester and Sydney Olympic star has a whole new suit to don, having been appointed advisor and football ambassador by the Welsh FA “with a mission of promoting Welsh football on both the local and global stages”.

Now, cards on the table, Rushie is a personal hero … but let’s be honest, he’ll be going some to advance the cause for football in Wales any better than Michael Sheen managed this week …

Michael Sheen gives rousing speech for Wales football team on A League of Their Own – video

Conor Gallagher’s adjustment back to life as a little fish continues … with word that he has been named as part of England’s Under-21s squad for friendlies against Italy and Germany. The Chelsea player has just 158 minutes to his name in the league this season, having been so pivotal on his loan at Crystal Palace that led to his breakthrough in England’s senior side.

Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott also features, along with Spurs’ Ryan Sessegnon and Everton’s Anthony Gordon.

Manager Lee Carsley said: “We welcome Conor Gallagher back to the group which is another example of us having a fluid pathway across our national teams. I know Conor will take to the pitch with as much pride in wearing an England shirt for the under-21s as he would for the seniors.

“He – like all of our players – can continue to take comfort in the fact that Gareth will always keep one eye on their progress. There is no glass ceiling.”

Quick Guide

England Under-21s squad

Show

Bursik (Stoke)
Griffiths (Portsmouth, on loan from West Brom)
Trafford (Bolton, on loan from Man City)
Aarons (Norwich)
Colwill (Brighton, on loan from Chelsea)
Creswell (Millwall, on loan from Leeds)
Harwood-Bellis (Burnley, on loan from Man City)
Mbete (Huddersfield, on loan from Man City)
Sessegnon (Spurs)
Spence (Spurs)
Thomas (Leicester)
Doyle (Sheff Utd, on loan from Man City)
Elliott (Liverpool)
Gallagher (Chelsea)
Garner (Everton)
Gibbs-White (Nottm Forest)
McAtee (Sheff Utd, on loan from Man City)
Ramsey (A Villa)
Skipp (Spurs)
Brewster (Sheff Utd)
Gordon (Everton)
Palmer (Man City)
Lewis-Potter (Brentford)
Gomes (Lille)
Balogun (Reims, on loan from Arsenal) 

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Brighton manager Hope Powell, the former England coach, knows first-hand the trajectory the game has embarked on in recent decades. Of tonight’s match, she said: “It’s a sellout which is good for the women’s game and good for us. I think the expectation would be for Arsenal to win the game – we’re under no illusions there – but we’re not going to give it to them.

“We’re going to make it very difficult and the plan is to get something out of the game as we do every game. A Friday night under the lights suits me perfectly.”

Over in the WSL, the managers for tonight’s curtain-raiser at Meadow Park have been speaking. Arsenal’s Jonas Eidevall said of their opponents, Brighton: “I’ve been very impressed by Brighton during the pre-season because I also saw that they had a huge turnover.

“I’ve seen them play against Bayern Munich, Manchester City and us, and they looked like a good team in those games. Some of the players they got in over this window are really high quality, so we are expecting and preparing for a competitive game.”

Eidevall also spoke about how the league must work to keep the momentum from the summer Euros: “In the end, it’s about creating a product that means so much to people that you go there and you watch the game even if it’s a snowstorm.

“You go there and watch even if it’s not convenient because you care so much about the team and you want to be there so much. We try to do our best on the pitch to create that.”

Erik ten Hag says he will not take his foot off the gas despite an elongated break in the schedule for Manchester United. With their match against Leeds postponed this weekend, immediately followed by the international break, his side suddenly found themselves with a 17-day lull, following Thursday’s Europa League win over Sheriff Tiraspol.

No let up for the manager, however, who said: “We have many meetings, we have to improve the structures in and around the club. We will also look to the window in January or next summer already and also to improve our way of playing by making plans.”

They return from the break with the Manchester derby on 2 October, the first of what is scheduled to be 13 games in 43 days. “It’s coming, a period with a game every third day and we have to get ready for that,” Ten Hag said. “The players, 90% are away [on international duty], but the others we will train properly. We have to prepare very well. Then I hope that everyone stays fit, returns back healthy and then we have to get in to attack.”

David Moyes backs Jarrod Bowen to hit the giddy heights he managed last season in time for the Qatar World Cup. After 18 goals last season, the forward is yet to score in the league so far this season – his only strikes have come in the Europa Conference League.

The West Ham manager said: “I’m just beginning to see Jarrod getting back to it, there are little bits coming back … we’re just beginning to see good signs from Jarrod and hopefully I’m right.”

Bowen is in England’s squad along with Declan Rice, about whom Moyes lit up, raised an eyebrow and grinned approvingly (I imagine, I wasn’t there).

Moyes added: “At the start of last season after the Euros, I thought Declan Rice was fantastic, whereas a lot of the England players didn’t find their levels quite as much, so it can happen. The international football, the little rest time you get during the summer can play a part in that.

“The boys who were on international duty in the summer had a really late return, Declan especially – Declan had more time off to recover. I think most of our players played roughly 60 games last year, so our players have had a real busy time.

“From that point of view, we hope it will improve Declan but, on the other side of it, we’re always trying to look after him as well.”

With her post-Euros haze starting to dissipate, Suzy Wrack’s back on the WSL beat … and she reckons it’s all set for Chelsea v Arsenal for the title, with last season’s third-place Manchester City vulnerable to the chasing pack, following a string of high-profile departures.

Here are this morn’s 10 things to look out for in this weekend’s Premier League action …

FEATURING! A keeper conundrum for Steven Gerrard, Diego Costa’s lupine love-in, plus fraying patience for Brendan Rodgers at the Foxes.

News to catch up on from late last night … manager-less Bournemouth are being eyed by a Las Vegas-led consortium. Intriguingly, if it was successful with a takeover, that would mean more than half of Premier League clubs had minority or majority US shareholders. Current owner Maxim Demin might have a decision to make with a £150m offer on the table.

WSL waves hello again!

Having pulled its opening weekend in the wake of the Queen’s death, the Women’s Super League kicks off tonight with last season’s just-pipped, Arsenal, hosting Hope Powell’s Brighton.

The champions, Chelsea, kick off at promoted Birkenhead Liverpool on Sunday. Meanwhile, Aston Villa and Leicester showcase their teams at Villa Park and the King Power Stadium respectively, as clubs hope to capitalise on the post-Euros bounce with the first of what everyone hopes is an eventual move away from the increasingly patronising-looking Chigwell Construction Stadium/Kingsmeadow/Leigh Sports Village/Man City Academy Stadium merry-go-round.

On many levels, this looks like a HUGE season for the women’s game in England!

WSL fixtures

Friday (all times BST)
Arsenal v Brighton (Meadow Park, 7.30pm)

Saturday
Manchester United v Reading (Leigh Sports Village, 12noon)

Sunday
Aston Villa v Manchester City (Villa Park, 12.30pm)
West Ham v Everton (Chigwell Construction Stadium, 3pm)
Leicester v Tottenham (King Power Stadium, 3pm)
Liverpool v Chelsea (Prenton Park, 5pm)

Premier League preamble

The Premier League is back! Well, some of it.

Seven fixtures take place in England’s top tier this weekend …

Premier League fixtures

Friday (All times BST)
Aston Villa v Southampton (8pm)
Nottingham Forest v Fulham (8pm)

Saturday
Wolves v Manchester City (12.30pm)
Newcastle v Bournemouth (3pm)
Tottenham v Leicester (5.30pm)

Sunday
Brentford v Arsenal (12noon)
Everton v West Ham (2.15pm)

Two of the three postponements – Chelsea v Liverpool and Manchester United v Leeds – are to ease pressure on policing and other logistics surrounding the Queen’s funeral on Monday. For example, the queue to file past Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin in central London is now approaching five miles … which needs more than a little bit of managing.

Brighton v Crystal Palace, however, had already been pushed back due to the planned rail strike … which has since been un-planned out of respect. Suffice to say that’s a fixture that may also have seen the odd supporter needing a little talking-to from the girls and boys in blue, and it remains on the postponed list.

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