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Sunderland’s Bruce can’t lecture Bent about loyalty

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SOCCER-ENGLAND/Much-travelled Sunderland manager Steve Bruce either has a very short memory or the biggest brass neck in football but either way his claim that his club had been let down by Darren Bent’s disloyal move to Aston Villa takes some swallowing.

“It’s hugely disappointing and the players, our supporters and the club as a whole have every right to feel massively let down,” he complained after Bent’s transfer.

Moving from a club in sixth place to one above the drop zone only on goal difference might look odd at first glance, certainly if Bent’s justification for the move about joining a “big club” is to believed, but Bruce is surely the last man to start bleating about loyalty.

As a centre half winning rave reviews with Norwich City back in the 1980s, Bruce told anyone who would listen that he wanted to go to Manchester United.

Aston Villa’s Bent buy will flummox O’Neill

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If eyebrows were raised when Aston Villa decided to spend up to 24 million pounds on striker Darren Bent then former manager Martin O’Neill’s forehead must have been pinned to his living room ceiling when the news broke on Tuesday.

The absurdity of the switch lies not in the inflated figure or Bent’s abilities on the pitch and in front of goal, but in the timing of Villa chairman Randy Lerner choosing to dig deep into his pockets.

Ireland may come to regret Reid freeze-out

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Giovanni Trapattoni may have cause to regret his decision to leave Sunderland playmaker Andy Reid out in the cold when Ireland face France on Saturday and next Wednesday in their two-legged World Cup play-off.

Reid has been in sparkling form for his club this season in the Premier League, notching some fantastic goals, notably from free-kicks — an area Ireland need to improve on with the exception of Glenn Whelan’s thunderbolts from long range.

Best. Premier League. Ever… ?

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The Ballon d’Or shortlist was announced on Sunday, but what about the Ballon de Plage? Liverpool’s inflatable nemesis must surely get a category of its own in the end-of-season awards.

Sunderland’s absurd winning goal at the Stadium of Light was symbolic not just of Liverpool’s woes but of a season that just keeps rattling along in ever more gloriously unpredictable style.

Midweek Premier League special. Can you beat the panel?

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Never let it be said that we at Reuters Soccer Blog shirk a challenge. Our attempts at score prediction on the opening weekend produced results that were modest at best but never fear, we’re straight back in for another shot (that’ll doubtless be blasted over the bar).

Once again, please send in your own predictions … they can scarcely be any worse than ours, and if you do especially well, we’ll gladly let you lord it over us here on the blog.

Twitter might not be harmless fun for players

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The days when the details of transfer negotiations were closely guarded secrets could be coming to an end with the advent of the ‘Twitter transfer’.

On Wednesday, U.S. national team striker Jozy Altidore all but announced a move to English Premier League Hull City on the micro-blogging site, keeping his fans updated while Hull remained silent.

Newcastle poised for tense finale to relegation soap opera

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England’s most popular soap operas thrive on a weekly recipe of misery, doom and gloom that is gobbled up by television viewers seeking some relief from their own trials and tribulations.

In that sense, the final weekend of the Premier League season is quite similar.

With Manchester United already polishing the trophy again after sealing a third consecutive title last week, neutral television viewers are salivating at the prospect of watching the suffering of fans of Middlesbrough, Newcastle United, Hull City and Sunderland as their clubs desperately scarp for top flight survival.

Ipswich back in spotlight with Keane appointment

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Roy Keane is back, with a new gig as manager of Ipswich Town.

Whatever else the appointment will do, this seems a surefire way for Ipswich to reacquaint themselves with the spotlight. Keane generates a huge amount of interest in Britain and considering he’s already engineered one successful promotion campaign, with Sunderland, it could be a good move from a purely footballing point of view as well (assuming he has some money to spend).

Ipswich, of course, have had a few very high profile managers. The list includes Alf Ramsey and (for a brief spell) Jackie Milburn, as well as Robson, and that’s just the footballing royalty.

England’s north east goes from hotbed to wasteland

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Things are looking grim in the north east, England’s fabled “hotbed of soccer”. 

The phrase, if you are interested, was used for many years to describe the passion for football in the region before a scholarly book by reknowned journalist Arthur Appleton “Hotbed of Soccer – the story of football in the North East” was published in 1960 and told a mainly successful story.

If Keane could not command respect, who can?

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Roy Keane quitting as Sunderland boss

was not a huge shock but I’m surprised by reports many of the players were happy about his departure.

The former Manchester United midfielder seemed an inspired appointment by chairman Niall Quinn two years ago despite having no managerial experience — apart from playing under Brian Clough and Alex Ferguson.

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