Manchester United triggered a one-year contract extension clause on Monday to retain the services of Ashely Young who has been a player of utility for the team.

The 32-year-old’s deal was due to expire this summer, but Unite have added 12 more months to his contract.

Young, who joined United back in 2011 from Aston Villa, has restarted and reignited his carrer at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho as the former winger has made the vast majority of his 30 appearances this season at left full-back.

Indeed so impressive has Young’s form been that he has been included in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for friendlies later this month against the Netherlands and Italy

Ogu Delighted With Winning Goal For Hapoel In Play-off Victory Over Bnei Yehuda

Super Eagles midfielder John Ogu has expressed his excitement after scoring  his side Hapoel Beer Sheva’s 1-0 win against Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv in their first game of the Israeli Championship play-off on Sunday.

Hapoel Beer Sheva got their play-off campaign off to a winning start with the slim win thanks to Ogu’s 31st minute goal.

In response to the outcome of the game, Ogu also praised his teammates for their effort in the game.

“Great win last night. Happy for my Goal and the Sacrifice from the team,” Ogu wrote on his verified Twitter handle.

Hapoel Beer Sheva’s next play-off game is on April 4 against Beitar Jerusalem who won 2-0 in their opening game versus Maccabi Netanya

Croatia Coach Confirms Modric, Rakitic For Peru, Mexico Friendlies; Lovren Out

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalić has named his final team that would clash with Peru on 23 March and Mexico on 27 March in Dallas.

The squad includes Real Madrid midfielder Luca Modric, Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, Inter Milan’s Ivan Perišić and Juventus Mario Mandžukić.

The team will be without Liverpool’s Dejan Lovren who would be missing due to his toe injury,  Besiktas loanee Matej Mitrović who misses out due to a hamstring injury, alongside Ivan Santini and Marin Leovac.

The squad:

Goalkeepers: Danijel Subašić (Monaco), Lovre Kalinić (Gent), Dominik Livaković (Dinamo Zagreb)

Defenders: Domagoj Vida (Besiktas), Vedran Ćorluka (Lokomotiv Moscow), Zoran Nižić (Hajduk), Josip Pivarić (Dynamo Kyiv), Ivan Strinić (Sampdoria), Šime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid), Tin Jedvaj (Bayer Leverkusen).

Midfielders: Milan Badelj (Fiorentina), Ivan Rakitić (Barcelona), Marcelo Brozović (Inter), Mateo Kovačić (Real Madrid), Marko Rog (Napoli), Mario Pašalić (Spartak Moscow), Filip Bradarić (Rijeka), Luka Modrić (Real Madrid).

Forwards: Ivan Perišić (Inter), Ante Rebić (Eintracht), Marko Pjaca (Schalke), Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim), Mario Mandžukić (Juventus), Duje Čop (Standard Liege), Nikola Kalinić (Milan)

Bolt Ready For Commonwealth Games

The world’s greatest athlete in history Usain Bolt is ready for  the Gold Coast  2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia.

The retired Jamaican sprint superstar will grace the track and field events in the second week of April as a celebrity spectator.

The flamboyant eight-time Olympic champion will become arguably the Coast Games’ biggest drawcard, overshadowing the great personalities like the royalty Prince Charles who will officially open the Games on April 4.

Bolt’s appearance was confirmed last night by Jamaica’s former 100m world champion Yohan Blake.

Games officials were trying to keep Bolt’s appearance under wraps but Blake let the cat out of the bag during a media sleepover at the Games Village.

“My friend Usain Bolt is coming as well, he’s coming to watch the 100m final,” Blake said.

“(He) was at the track in Jamaica before I left. He said, `When I come to Australia, if you don’t win there is going to be problems’.

“I don’t have a Commonwealth medal. It’s very important for me to have one in in my trophy case.

“Usain Bolt has left his legacy for us to carry on and that’s what we want to do.’’

Blake, who flew into Brisbane yesterday, said the Coast village was the most impressive he had seen.

“The colours are amazing, the facilities … I love it,” he said.

“It’s going to be a great Games, we’re going to have a lot of fun,” he said.

Other celebrities invited include Margot Robbie, Chris Hemsworth, Miranda Kerr, Greg Norman and Mick Fanning.

Simon Anticipates Super Eagles Reunion; Expects Tough Poland, Serbia Friendlies

Nigeria winger Moses Simon is looking forward to rejoining the Super Eagles squad on Monday ahead of their international friendlies against Poland and Serbia.

Simon, a regular starter first team player, missed the team’s last two games against Algeria in a 2018 World Cup qualifier and Argentina in an international friendly in Krasnodar but says he’s ready to fight for his shirt and place in the team.

“I missed the last two games and I can’t wait to join them in Wroclaw,” Simon said.

“We will try to work as a team as usual to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians.

The games (against Poland and Serbia) are going to be tough and it will put us in good shape and I’m ready to fight for my place.

The 22-year old also added that Gent must be clinical and tactically alert if they are to dethrone Anderlecht to win the Belgian League title this season after they qualified for the play-offs 1.

Moses bounced back to full fitness since a knee injury kept him out of action for eight weeks and told CSN winning the league will make up for their tough campaign this season.

Gent, the 2014/15 Belgian league Champions finished fourth after defeating Genk 2-1 on the final day of the Belgian regular season.

“It’s going to be tough but to win the league we must take our chances and ensure we stay compact in defending.”

Gent will compete alongside Anderlecht, Club Brugge, Standard Liège, Genk and Sporting Charleroi in the Belgian Jupiler League play-offs.

Messi: 2018 Is My Last Opportunity To Win The World Cup

Argentina star Lionel Messi is aware time is catching up on his international carrer and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia may be his last opportunity of him winning a senior medal for himself.

In a fantasic run of carrerr in which he’s won almost every available titles including five Ballon d’Or gongs, a senior title with the Albiceleste is the only chink in his shining armour.

Argentina have been three-time Copa America runners-up and also lost to Germany in the finals of the world cup in the 2014 Brazil in Messi’s 12 years with the senior team.

The 30-year-old is now desperate to go one better in Russia, with his team having been beaten by Germany in extra time in Rio de Janeiro four years ago.

“We feel that, if we won’t win the World Cup in Russia, the only way will be to give up the national team,” Messi told La Cornisa on Sunday.

“I dream of winning the trophy in Russia. My wish is to live something similar to Brazil 2014.

“You can do everything OK and fail, like Argentina in Brazil.”

Argentina are considered favourites in a World Cup preliminary group which has Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D.

Joel Obi Is Fit To Play For Super Eagles- Salisu Yusuf

Salisu Yusuf, the Super Eagles’ Assistant Coach, on Monday has stated that Torino midfielder Joel Obi was fit to play for the senior

Yusuf told the News Agency of Nigeria that the Italy-based striker has had been very impressive this season for his club.

He described Obi as a utility player whose experience was highly in need in the Super Eagles.

“Joel Obi is a very good player right from the beginning, and he was outstanding the few times he played for the Super Eagles.

“He did very well, both in Inter Milan then and Nigeria, before injury knocked him out and today he is active in Torino,” the coach said.

Speaking on the team’s upcoming friendlies, Yusuf said the Super Eagles would stun Poland and the others they would encounter in the friendlies.

He said the players were in high spirits with the inclusion of new players like Joel Obi and Ikechukwu Gabriel.

Higuain: Spain, Italy, A Good Challenge For Argentina’s W/Cup Preparations

Argentina striker Gonzalo Higuain believes the upcoming international friendlies against Spain and Italy will show La Albiceleste’s true potentials ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup which kicks off in Russia in June.

Argentina , two-time world champions,  will play the Azzurri of Italy at the Etihad Stadium in England on March 23rd before also facing Spain four days later at the Wanda Metropolitan in Spain.

Higuain, who was called back to the Argentina squad after missing their last seven games told Mundo Albiceleste that he’s excited to be back and looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m happy about it. Two important matches, one of them against Spain, which will be a good opportunity to show the potential of Argentina facing the World Cup,” Higuain told Mundo Albiceleste.

“I enjoy the national team and there are still important challenges.”

On how far Argentina can go at the World Cup, the 30 year old  former Juventus striker added: “With humility, but we aspire to win everything, but first the two friendlies of this month and then to think about the World Cup. It’s time to be calm.

Higuain has been in rich vein of form for Juventus this season scoring 22 goals and providing six assists in all competitions (39 games).

Commonwealth Games: Nigeria To Leave For Australia By March 24

Nigeria athletes are supposed to leave the country for the XXI Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia for the games on March 24, an official of the Federal Ministry of Sports said on Monday.

The Deputy Director, Para-Sports and coaching department in the ministry, Yemi Usikaye, told the News Agency of Nigeria that 56 athletes and 22 coaches would leave Abuja ahead of the games.

“This first batch of athletes and coaches will come from Athletics, Basketball, Boxing, Gymnastics, Para-Athletics, Para Powerlifting, Para Table Tennis, Table Tennis and Weightlifting.

“The second batch which will consist of athletes and coaches from Wrestling and Athletics Federations will leave on April 2,’’ the official said.

NAN report that an advance team of officials from the ministry departed Nigeria on March 18 to attend the Delegates’ Registration Meeting due to hold on March 22.

NAN also reports that athletes competing in the Games would round-off their training and proceed to Brisbane on March 24.

The athletics federation would depart with 25 home-based athletes and five coaches.

The Games Village will officially open on March 25 while team officials are allowed to check their athletes’ rooms five days before the commencement of the event.

The 2018 Commonwealth Games will hold from April 4 to April 15.

Pinnick Picks Asaba 2018 Role

Chairman of the Local Organising Committee  for the  Asaba 2018 Africa Senior Athletics Championships Solomon Ogba has named the Nigeria Football Federation president  Amaju Pinnick as the head of the Special Duties Sub-Committee for the event.

Ogba, in  a statement by the head of the  Media and Publicity Sub-Committee Olukayode Thomas,  said the Delta State Government was focused on holding a fantastic and well structured competition.

“Amaju’s experience in sports management, which spans many decades, at both local and international level, will obviously add a lot of value to the successful hosting of the championship,” he said.

Pinnick commended  Ogba and other members of the LOC  for the opportunity to contribute his quota to the hosting of the continental event.

The former Chairman of Delta State Sports Commission, when the state hosted the inaugural edition of the Africa Junior Athletics Championship in Warri,  promised to bring his experience as member of CAF and FIFA World Cup Organising Committees to ensure the success of the Asaba 2018 Africa Championship.

The Asaba 2018 championship will be held at  Asaba Stadium from August 1 to 5.

NPFL: Were Duke Udi And John Obuh Right To Be Sacked? By Kunle Fayiga

The biggest stories coming out of the Nigeria Professional Football League in the past week were Duke Udi and John Obuh being relieved of their duties as managers of Sunshine Stars and Kwara United respectively. Things haven’t been going well for the Owena Whales as they lurk close to the relegation zone, while the Harmony Warriors are rock bottom of the pile.

It is certainly not where the management of both clubs would have wanted them to be, but do their poor starts to the season ensure that both men deserved to be axed?

Udi came to Akure in the second half of the 2017 NPFL season when they were in relegation trouble – replacing former Super Eagles coach Austin Eguavoen, who had failed to provide any spark.

At the time of Udi’s arrival, Sunshine were banished from their Akure base, for crowd violation, to Ijebu-Ode. It’s not the first time the Ondo State capital club used Ijebu-Ode for their home games but the former Osun United boss proved to be an instant hit as Sunshine garnered some big results both in their temporary home and on the road to ultimately beat the drop.

Duke Udi

Udi became a fan favourite and appeared to be the man to see out the current campaign. However, all was not well within the Sunshine camp.
Aside from crowd disturbances, the club owed a backlog of salaries to a number of players both past and present.

This put them under the spotlight of the League Management Company, and with players threatening to take strike action over unpaid wages, motivation levels were inevitably low.

There was little the manager could do, and even Udi claimed to have been owed.

The Ondo State Football Agency clarified that Udi was not sacked but rather asked to “step aside for gross insubordination”, due to his refusal to respond to queries and disrespecting constituted authority, for the break down in relationship with players, and for his disregard for the press.

How could a man who saved the club from relegation all of a sudden become the villain?

Certainly, there’s the sense that the Sunshine hierarchy weren’t helping the ex-Nigeria international, and that he has been made a scapegoat to cover up for their poor administration.

Obuh’s axing is rather more unfortunate.

John Obuh at Kwara Utd

He was the architect of Kwara United’s return to the NPFL for the first time since 2015 as the Ilorin-based club finished top of the Nigeria National League Northern Conference.

The NPFL terrain is difficult, and one that any club that wants to survive needs to be well equipped for. However, the former Nigeria U-20 coach did not get the backing of the Kwara United management and ended up working with what he had.

Indeed, the Harmony Warriors have been the worst performers in the NPFL as they have the lowest number of home wins (three) and the most home defeats (two). The Kwara hierarchy gave Obuh a three-game ultimatum, but it was evident that he would get the axe sooner or later.

Admittedly, one can argue that Udi and Obuh were falling short of expectations, but neither were truly given the support required to succeed.

Assuming that Sunshine Stars and Kwara United had bankrolled both managers with the necessary funds and they didn’t succeed, then the blame would be on their heads, but in this case, it’s the management that are culpable for their clubs’ failure.

United have swiftly appointed former Niger Tornadoes boss Abubakar Bala , while Stars have installed Henry Abiodun as caretaker boss. It is yet to be seen if these men will prompt a turnaround fully knowing that they will work in the same unpleasant environment as their predecessors.

What is saddening is that majority aren’t on lucrative contracts and are not treated with the respect they deserve because of the clubs’ management by state governments.

The league is brimming with many excellent coaches, but they need to thrive in conducive environments and get the required support.

Failure to change this mentality and attitude means that talented coaches will not be harnessed to their full potential, which in turn will hurt the growth of a league trying to build a positive image in front of an increasingly disenfranchised local audience.