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    Sam Allardyce warns West Brom players ‘no hugging or kissing’ as coronavirus rules keep celebrations at Wolves low-key

    SAM ALLARDYCE shouted ‘no hugging or kissing’ at his West Brom players as they celebrated their 3-2 win at Wolves.
    Big Sam was quick to remind his victorious stars of the latest Covid rules after the full time whistle blew on the closely fought Midlands derby.

    Sam Allardyce warned his players against ‘hugging and kissing’ amid new Covid rulesCredit: AFP or licensors

    The Baggies celebrated with hugs and high-fives after their win at WolvesCredit: Rex Features

    The Baggies claimed all three points to move closer to safety thanks to two penalties from Matheus Pereira either side of Semi Ajeyi’s strike.
    Wolves were leading 2-1 just before half-time thanks to Fabio Silva and Willy Boly.
    But Allardyce’s men were back in the lead just 11 minutes into the second-half.
    They managed to hold on which triggered passionate celebrations at the end with the group high-fiving and hugging as they made their way off the pitch.

    But their manager – who has been vocal in his criticism of Covid handling during the pandemic – cracked down on the behaviour quickly.
    Having fist-bumped some of Wolves’ staff, TV microphones heard him bark: “No hugging lads. No kissing.”
    Players were recently advised to ‘practice socially distanced’ celebrations by football chiefs.
    But the Baggies weren’t paying much attention.

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    Fans online were quick to react to the footage.
    Samuel wrote: “Nice to see Covid rules imposed!”
    But James replied: “Well Sam did say ‘no kissing lads’ hahaha.”
    After his side’s recent FA Cup defeat at League One Blackpool, Allardyce called for football to be stopped.
    He warned: “We’re out to entertain and if we’re to continue to do that then we’re fearful of someone catching a virus they’re not going to recover from?
    “I don’t know how long we can carry on.
    “The big help is the vaccinations happening as quickly as possible but we may need a lockdown if cases outside of football continue to rise.
    “There’s talk about extra restrictions that we are going to come under in the next few weeks.
    “We’ve got to do things at the training ground in smaller groups, we’ve got to spread ourselves out further and meetings have to be done in smaller groups.
    “We cannot let players sit down.”

    Well Sam did say ” no kissing lads” hahaha
    — James Partington (@JamesPartingt14) January 16, 2021

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    Crystal Palace terminate Max Meyer’s contract to get huge £170,000-a-week deal off the wage bill

    CRYSTAL PALACE have terminated Max Meyer’s contract after a frustrating two-and-a-half-year spell at Selhurst Park.
    Meyer joined the Eagles on a free transfer from Schalke in 2018, which was regarded as a major coup thanks to his exploits in the Bundesliga.

    Max Meyer increasingly found appearances hard to come by at Crystal PalaceCredit: Reuters

    But the attacking midfielder was increasingly marginalised by Roy Hodgson and leaves after 56 appearances in all competitions.
    A statement read: “Max Meyer has left the club by mutual consent.
    “Everyone at Crystal Palace Football Club thanks Max for his efforts and wishes him the very best for the future.”
    Meyer had six months left to run on his contract, which the Daily Mail claim was worth £170,000-a-week plus bonuses.

    The 25-year-old had been limited to a solitary appearance in the Carabao Cup this season.
    Bundesliga strugglers Cologne are reportedly interested in acquiring his services.
    Hodgson admitted before Meyer’s departure that a mutual termination was likely.
    Speaking last week, the 73-year-old said: “Max has been the perfect professional, done all his work and hardly missed a day of training.

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    Liverpool boast the most-valuable squad in the Premier League

    “He wants to play and needs to play. It is pretty obvious at the moment with the competition for places we have got here and the players I have been using, he has been marginalised.
    “I wouldn’t be surprised if Max is knocking on the door to move on and if that is the case, I might have to reluctantly agree he has not been given the chances here to show what he could do, so if there is someone else that would give him that it would have to be considered.”
    Meyer has won four caps for Germany but his last appearance for his country came back in 2016.

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    Man Utd legend Sir Alex Ferguson admits relief at being retired having seen Liverpool become ‘phenomenal’ last two years

    SIR ALEX FERGUSON is relieved that he retired when he did after watching Liverpool over the past two seasons.
    The 79-year-old won the Premier League a record 13 times while in charge of Manchester United from 1986 until 2013.

    Sir Alex Ferguson held the top position at Old Trafford for over 26 years Credit: Getty Images – Getty

    But even the most successful manager in British football history would be wary of taking on Jurgen Klopp’s current side.
    Speaking during a virtual charity night for The Alzheimer’s Society, Fergie described the Reds as ‘phenomenal’.
    He said: “United against Liverpool is the game of the season – the most successful sides in the country.
    “I had to build a club not just a team to surpass them.

    “Thank goodness I’ve retired, because when I see Liverpool’s performances over the last two seasons – phenomenal”
    Klopp’s side finally ended their 30-year wait to win a league title last season after securing 99 points.
    The Merseyside club are second in the table this term with 33 points from 17 games.
    But they will go level on points with league leaders United if they beat them on Sunday.

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    Liverpool won the Premier League title last season with 99 points Credit: AFP or licensors

    Solskjaer is the first United boss to top the table as late as this since Fergie won the title in 2012-13.
    Ahead of the showdown with Liverpool, the Old Trafford boss said: “We’re looking forward to it. We enjoy being where we are at any time, if it’s the first game or last game, it’s a big difference.
    “We go there knowing that we’re playing against the best team by a mile in the country for the last year-and-a-half. They’re champions by right.
    “We’re looking forward to it and it’s a great test of where we’re at against a good team.
    “We’re almost halfway through the season, so it’s a little bit of an indication of where we’re at but nobody will remember the league table from January 12.”
    ⚽ Read our Man United live blog for the latest news from Old Trafford

    Sir Alex Ferguson’s record in the Prem

    Matches: 810
    Wins: 528
    Draws: 168
    Losses: 114
    Goals for: 1,627
    Goals against: 703
    Manager of Month awards: 27
    Manager of Season awards: 11
    Titles: 13

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    Arsenal ‘still hopeful’ teen Folarin Balogun will stay despite transfer interest from RB Leipzig and two other clubs

    ARSENAL reportedly remain hopeful Folarin Balogun will stay at the club – despite interest from RB Leipzig.
    The 19-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season and will be able to leave the Emirates on a free transfer.

    Balogun has been linked with a move away from Arsenal with his contract set to expire in the summerCredit: Getty Images – Getty

     According to the Guardian, there is a three-way battle for his signature.
    It is believed more than 15 clubs have offered him a deal.
    German side RB Leipzig, who reached last season’s Champions League semi-final, are believed to be one of those interested.
    Julian Nagelsmann’s side sit second in the Bundesliga, two points behind champions Bayern Munich.

    They will face Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League.
    The Gunners were reported to have restarted contract negotiations with the teenager in November, but talks have stalled.
    They are understood to remain hopeful the highly-rated striker will sign a new contract.
    Balogun is yet to make his Premier League debut but has played four times in the Europa League, scoring twice.

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    It is claimed Balogun is one of 11 players that have been made ‘dispensable’ by Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta, although he does want him to stay.
    Arteta said: “The club wants to make a deal, the manager wants to make a deal, the player wants to stay and I’m not sure about the agent.”
    Balogun is represented by the same agency as his team-mate Eddie Nketiah.
    He is not the only academy product at risk of leaving the club, with winger Kido Taylor-Hart also yet to sign a professional deal amid interest from overseas.

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    Wolves 2 West Brom 3: Big Sam’s rescue mission finally underway as Pereira’s double seals first win after thriller

    BIG SAM conjured up his first win as West Brom boss – against the club he never loses to!
    Perhaps it’s time someone at Molineux ripped up the Wolves Supporters’ Club Membership card ….. registered to a certain S. Allardyce from Dudley!

    Sam Allardyce took charge of the Baggies last monthCredit: Rex Features

    West Brom ace Matheus Pereira scored twice from the penalty spot Credit: EPA

    The Baggies boss has now tangled with the team he supported as a boy nine times and Wolves have yet to lay a glove on him – as the 66-year-old has won seven and drawn two of those tussles.
    However there is little doubt this unexpected win would have been the sweetest as he defied the odds to win his first Black Country derby in charge of ‘the old enemy.’
    The fact he pulled this one out of the bag after his squad had been hit by a Covid-crisis which deprived him two of his mainstays, just made it all the more remarkable.
    With fans like this who needs enemies!

    Could Fireman Sam use this crucial win as a ladder to help Albion clamber out of the relegation zone to safety, to perform his greatest ever escape act?
    If they continue to put their bodies on the line as they did here, deep in hostile territory he might just top his previous great escapes.
    On the front foot from the start, Albion were bold in attack and brave at the back, winning two penalties and generally causing a nuisance of themselves to prolong Wolves recent run of poor results.
    Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have taken just two points from a possible 18 and are spiralling into freefall without their talismanic Mexican striker Raul Jimenez.

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    Matheus Pereira stole the show as the Baggies picked up three points Credit: Getty Images – Getty

    They fell behind to an early Matheus Pereira penalty after Willy Boly tripped Callum Robinson on the edge of his penalty area.
    Ref Michael Oliver was in no doubt the offence took place on the 18-yard line line – part of the penalty area – and despite Boly’s protests of innocence VAR agreed with Oliver.
    Pereira expertly sent Patricio the wrong way to open the scoring and give big Sam’s boys something to hold on to – if not themselves.
    Somehow they managed to control their emotions and celebrated with polite fist pumps as they observed strict new protocol on celebrations.
    Their grip on the game didn’t last long however and by half-time they were 2-1 down.
    And this time the Covid celebration warnings went out of the window as 18-year-old Fabio Silva celebrated his first goal at Molineux and was hugged by his teammates in a five-man huddle which broke the new rules.
    Seriously, what else did anyone really expect an excitable kid to do in the circumstances.
    Wolves went even crazier when Boly redeemed himself for his penalty gaffe by firing them in front two minutes before the break.

    West Brom have secured their second win of the Premier League seasonCredit: Rex Features

    Fabio Silva handed Wolves a lifeline when he scored in the 38th minuteCredit: PA:Press Association
    Jake Livermore failed to clear a near post corner and the ball fell kindly for Boly, who calmly slid the ball into the far corner to give Wolves the lead.
    At that point you would have bet on a resurgent Wolves to sway Albion.
    Instead the visitors stepped it up a gear after the break and showed real character to come from behind and win this entertaining derby.
    They highlighted the deficiencies in Wolves defence with a long throw into the mixer after 52 minutes which Kyle Bartley and Sami Ajayi got on the end of the flick to send a looping header beyond Patricio outstretched glove.
    Four minutes later Wolves imploded as Conor Coady clipped Callum Robinson in the box and Periera went the other way this time to beat Patricio from the penalty spot for the second time.
    Wolves were reeling and even took inspirational skipper Coady off in their efforts to salvage a point.
    However this was big Sam’s day!

    Semi Ajayi scored West Brom’s third and final goal of the afternoon Credit: PA:Press Association

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    Man Utd boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer could unleash ‘secret weapon’ Amad Diallo in crunch title clash at Liverpool

    OLE GUNNAR SOLSKJAER could unleash Manchester United’s ‘secret weapon’ Amad Diallo on Liverpool.
    The winger, 18, completed his £37million switch to Old Trafford from Atalanta earlier this month.

    ‘Secret weapon’ Amad Diallo could be unleashed against LiverpoolCredit: Getty

    Diallo – who will wear the No19 shirt – was shown around United’s training facilities on Wednesday.
    The Ivorian star then trained with new team-mates for the first time on Thursday.
    United head to Anfield looking to open up a six-point gap at the top of the Premier League with a win over the reigning champions.
    And even though Red Devils boss Solskjaer has urged fans to be patient with the livewire, he refused to rule out the possibility the ace could make his debut against their bitter rivals.

    He said: “Let him have some time.
    “But whether it is against Liverpool in the league, in the FA Cup, this weekend or in a few weeks it is questionable.
    “We have a very fresh squad. There are only one or two that are questionable for the weekend.
    “I do not rule out that he is in the squad for the Liverpool match. Things can happen.

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    “You see how fast things happen over here in England. Suddenly, a team has six players out with coronavirus.
    “So you do not know. I do not want to put any time on it, but he is at least in the group, trains with us and can be chosen in the squad.”
    It would be a huge call for Solskjaer to throw the inexperienced youngster in from the start.
    But the Norwegian could be tempted to use him as a wildcard from the bench if his side needs some inspiration.
    Diallo has only made five sub appearances for Atalanta, with the longest outing being 22 minutes against FC Midtjylland in the Champions League.
    ⚽ Read our Man United live blog for the latest news from Old Trafford

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    What Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo said about Wayne Rooney’s career as Man Utd icon retires to become Derby boss

    LIONEL MESSI and Cristiano Ronaldo both hailed Wayne Rooney’s career and talent before his retirement.
    The Manchester United and England record goalscorer, 35, hung up his boots after a stellar 19-year career.

    Cristiano Ronaldo hailed his former team-mate Wayne Rooney for his talent, mentality and careerCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    He has now been appointed permanent Derby manager after a successful caretaker spell at Pride Park.
    Rooney won 16 trophies with Manchester United including five Premier Leagues, Champions League, Europa League, Club World Cup, FA Cup and three League Cups.
    But it was his raw talent that saw him burst on to the scene as a teenager at Everton before earning his big-money move to Old Trafford.
    And with 11 Ballons d’Or between them, Ronaldo and Messi certainly know how to recognise greatness.

    Ronaldo and Rooney were team-mates under Sir Alex Ferguson at United, winning three league titles in a row together.
    Speaking in 2015, the Portuguese star told Goalhanger: “For me the power of Wayne Rooney is his mentality and strength.
    “He never stops, he always runs, helps the team. He’s a fantastic team player and he scores goals.
    “He scored important goals, for me he’s fantastic. He was the kid of England. Everyone loved him. He is a fantastic boy, fantastic player.

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    “I used to call him, between me and my mates, the pitbull. I remember when he lost the ball he was so powerful, a strong guy, he shoots unbelievable.”
    Ronaldo added that he ‘misses playing with him’ and hoped to one day take to the field alongside the former England captain again.
    Messi, meanwhile, came up against Rooney three times.
    The England legend earned one draw – a 0-0 in the first leg of the 2008 Champions League semi-finals – but lost both the finals against Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in 2009 and 2011.
    Argentine hero Messi added on Rooney in an interview with Coach Magazine: “Over the years we have faced many British teams in Europe and come up against many good players.
    “But I have always had a big respect for Wayne Rooney.
    “He has played at the highest level for many years and is one of the special players of the generation.”
    ⚽ Read our Man United live blog for the latest news from Old Trafford

    Lionel Messi labelled Rooney as a ‘special player’ with the pair locking horns on three occasionsCredit: Times Newspapers Ltd

    Rooney signed a two-and-a-half-year contract to become the permanent Derby bossCredit: Reuters

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    Brighton star Ben White makes touching gesture to Newport after FA Cup win as he prepares to face fellow old club Leeds

    BEN WHITE had to think outside the box this week to pay tribute to the club that set him on the course to Premier League stardom.
    With shirt-swapping currently banned due to Covid-19, the England hopeful brought a few signed Brighton shirts in carrier bags when heading back to Newport on Sunday.

    Ben White made a touching gesture to his old club Newport last weekCredit: Rex Features

    He gave them to his old County team-mates and the kit man after Albion’s FA Cup win, in honour of what they did for him there three years ago in what was his first loan.
    It showed how White has not forgotten those who helped him become one of the top flight’s hottest properties.
    Exiles boss Michael Flynn told SunSport: “It was an unbelievable gesture. You want to see people like that go all the way and I’m sure he will.”
    White, 23, has certainly come a long way since being farmed out to League Two County, where he won the Player of the Year award for the 2017-18 season.

    He impressed with subsequent loans to Peterborough and then Leeds, where he won the Championship and whom he faces this afternoon with the Seagulls.
    He is now on the radar of Liverpool and Manchester United, while Gareth Southgate will no doubt be keeping an eye on his progress too.
    And given the stock the England boss puts on having a good character, he will surely be impressed with what he hears about the ball-playing centre-back.
    Flynn beamed: “He’s the kind of person you’d want your daughter to come with. 

    “He’s been highly thought of from a young age and there are lots of players who get carried away with that.
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    “They believe the hype, take their foot off the gas and maybe get caught up with other things.
    “But Ben is nothing like that. He’s such a good professional and very level-headed.”
    White quickly adapted to the physicality of regular men’s football at Newport.
    Flynn remembers playing Wycombe five games into the season and White going up for a 50-50 with ex-Brighton skipper and powerhouse Adam El-Abd.
    White won it and then sprayed a 60-yard diagonal pass out wide and from that moment, Flynn knew the then teenager would be able to handle himself.
    The centre-back showed off his technical ability at Leeds last year where he played every single game of their Championship-winning campaign, thriving under Marcelo Bielsa.
    Leeds were desperate to sign him permanently in the summer but had three bids rejected as Brighton clung onto one of the prized assets.
    Albion chief Graham Potter said: “Ben’s very respectful of how they helped him and progressed his career because it was a fantastic time for him. 
    “But he’s our player now and I’m sure he would like to get the points against them.”
    Leeds legend Eddie Gray watched White every week last term in his role as co-commentator for LUTV.

    The defender won Newport’s Player of the Year award in 2018Credit: Getty

    Ben White helped Leeds to win promotion during his loan spell last seasonCredit: Getty
    And while Gray knows the defender has a long way to go to emulate the likes of Jon Woodgate and Rio Ferdinand, the Scot does see some similarities with the former.
    The two-time First Division title winner, 72, said: “Ben would never go to ground a lot to make challenges and Woodgate was like that. 
    “He’s as good as Woodgate on the ball when he comes out from the back and plays people in.
    “I think Ben could play in a side like Man City or Liverpool, teams that like to play out from the back and like to play. That’s Ben’s type of game.”
    Due to his versatility and Brighton’s injury problems, White has played in midfield and at full-back at times this season.
    But Gray is certain centre-back is the Poole lad’s long-term position and where Southgate will play him if he hands White a first call-up.
    For Flynn, it is a matter of when, not if.
    The former Wigan midfielder, 40, added: “I said as soon as I saw him that he would play at the highest level and he would represent England. He’s that good. 
    “I’ve only said that about one other player who I played with and that was Leighton Baines.”
    You can put your shirt on Flynn being proved right about White.

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