Alex Mowatt interview: Barnsley star baking to help cope with lockdown

“A lot of FIFA. A lot of gym. A lot of baking. That’s about it really.”

Not many people will be surprised by two of those activities but baking is a slightly more unusual hobby for Barnsley captain Alex Mowatt. The 25-year-old midfielder is satisfying his competitive streak during the coronavirus lockdown with a different type of contest.

“Me and all the boys in the group chat are doing the Mary Berry thing, the Great British Bake-Off,” he tells Sky Sports. “I have got to bake a cake by six o’clock tonight. The others in the chat who are not baking, they are the judges. They can’t taste it so it’s on appearance.”

Will he be getting any help with it?

“No help allowed, it has to be my own work,” he explains.

“Jack Payne at Lincoln, he must be the worst out of all of us. He was practising yesterday and made some cookies but they were awful.”

These are strange times for everyone and footballers are no different.

“All we want is the virus to be over, that is the priority,” says Mowatt.

“People are missing the banter and just being around each other every day. It is a bit strange not being there but the group chats are busy every day and helping us through it.

“The problem is that everyone is hearing different things. We have some foreign lads in Austria and Germany and they are telling us what things are like over there.”

Mowatt himself went on a short break to Dubai last month, arriving home the day before it went into lockdown. “I got quite lucky there,” he admits.

Now back home in Doncaster where he lives with his girlfriend, Mowatt has settled into a routine of sorts as he maintains his training regime alone.

“It’s just about getting your work done throughout the day,” he explains. “I was on the bike earlier and there are a number of apps that we are using. I have got a polar watch and a heart-rate monitor so I send that to the fitness coach at the end of each day.

“It is OK for now. It really has not been too bad, but going back to football, which is what we all want, will actually be the hardest bit. You could have been just running for four or five weeks. It does get boring. Obviously, we would rather be training with each other.

“There are a few players with contracts up as well and they will want to know what is going on sooner rather than later. You want to get your life sorted really.

“We have heard so many different possibilities.”

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With Barnsley currently bottom of the Championship, the club could be forgiven for having their own reasons for wanting the season to be curtailed but Mowatt’s reflections on the campaign – and indeed his time with the Tykes – are altogether positive.

It was here that he relaunched a promising career that had stuttered a little amid the uncertainty at Leeds United, where he had been named player of the year in 2015.

“There are always Leeds fans commenting on my posts on social media which is nice. Unfortunately for me, during my time there, I don’t think there was ever a manager who was there for longer than six months. It was all very hectic.

“Now it seems to have settled down and they have a world-class manager who has got people playing. It is good to see them doing well and playing well. It’s great to see.

“But Barnsley has been great for me. Getting promoted last season was the best experience of my career and being back in the Championship has been great too.

“Obviously, we are not in a good position in the table but some games have been really good we have just been a bit hit and miss.

“When I went to League One, my main aim was to get back to the Championship and playing week in and week out and I have been able to do that this season.

“Now I just want to push on and keep progressing.”

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Commentator’s massive change to save NRL

The NRL appears to be heading towards a June return with ARLC chairman Peter V’landys optimistic about the game coming back on June 1.

On Saturday, V’landys appeared much more positive about the competition returning with decreasing infection rates pointing to it currently being safer for players to be on the field now than when the game was shut down.

The coronavirus crisis has placed massive pressure on the NRL with fears clubs and even the league may not be able to survive an extended lock out.

V’landys was on 2GB and Triple M to talk about the plans, sharing his belief that the game could “absolutely” return in June.

“I’m very confident about it actually,” V’landys said on 2GB. “We’ve got the best can-do man in Wayne Pearce setting up this committee and he’s looking at all options.

“You only have to look at the infection rate. When we stopped playing the infection rate was just on about 23 per cent. Yesterday it was 3.9 per cent and today it’s 4.3 per cent.

“You’ve got to remember that we’re eight weeks away and if these figures continue to be that low, there’s less risk now than what there was when we were playing (up until March 22).”

ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys has been sounding more optimistic than normal.Source:AAP

With news that the NRL would be exempted from restrictions and allowed to continue right now, V’landys said the competition would look different when the players come back.

If it does come back soon, the game will be played behind closed doors and it appears increasingly likely the NRL will play in conference systems.

South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett reportedly pitched an initial idea to organise teams in two conferences to Project Apollo, the NRL’s innovation committee charged with finding a way to restart the competition in the next two months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Melbourne Storm boss Frank Ponissi said the latest development was to divide the 16 teams into four conferences based at Brisbane/Sunshine Coast, north Queensland, NSW’s Central Coast and Canberra although he stressed he had not received official word from the NRL.

“It is four pools of four (teams). (That way) you minimise the amount of people in one particular area which makes it, especially from a health and safety point of view, far more manageable,” he told SEN radio.

“A couple of weeks ago there was a real resistance (to move away), that was one of the reasons why a lot of people especially players and staff with young families were saying ‘no we won’t look at that. Now it’s changed again. People are out of work and salaries have either been cut or stopped completely.

“You’ve got to feed your family … so they will look at anything. The mood has changed dramatically.”

The NRL Grand Final could be very different in 2020.Source:News Corp Australia

Ponissi said it wasn’t yet set in stone but that the four conference model appeared to be a “realistic option”.

It’s among plenty of options for the game returning with suggestions there will be a four-team playoff for the wooden spoon, a wildcard finals system and even a five-match State of Origin series to kick off the season.

But with the season potentially finishing in the last week before Christmas, Fox Sports commentator Andrew Voss has called for four quarters of football — similar to the pre-season.

When played in summer months or extreme heat, the NRL generally offers the concession but Voss said it could be the new normal — and another way to get more value for TV broadcasters with future rights deals believed to be impacted by the pandemic.

I am convinced when the @NRL returns we must have 4 quarter football. It could even be that we have seen our last games with 40 minute halves. It is one of the only ways to add to TV broadcasters revenue streams and maintain levels of rights deals. @FOXNRL @telegraph_sport

However, one proposal — the three-game Grand Final series — has been condemned by NRL legends Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler.

Speaking on the Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth, the pair agreed Origin could work to start the season back up but they also agreed the Grand Final should be a one off.

"Unless you're doing it purely for money, it takes the sting away, less people will watch it," Fittler said.

"Tradition of Australian sport and for however long is you have one game at the end of the year, winner takes all," Johns said.

The NRL will be looking a some massive changes for the remainder of the 2020 season.Source:Getty Images

V’landys said there would be a number of options on the table and under investigation when the league returned with the details ironed out in the next few weeks.

“If we start the first of June, time is on our side,” V’landys said on Triple M. “We would get to play each other once, have the finals series plus State of Origin and that’s always been the objective. Even the option of having a couple of local derbies to give a bit of spice to the season. If we can do that, I’d be a very happy man.”

The latest the grand final would be played would be the week before Christmas but it would depend on how the season finishes.

As the NRL players are set to sacrifice five months of pay if they can’t get back on the field, the move would mean the stars could avoid the pay cuts.

“What the deal was with the players was in a worst-case scenario that they don’t play again this year,” V’landys said. “(But) that’s not going to happen. They are going to play football and what we’ve negotiated is what revenues we get when we recommence we share with the players.

“So the players certainly will be getting more, not necessarily what their contractual obligations are because there might be less revenue. We’ve just got to see what revenue we can get and the players will share in that.”

with AAP

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Khabib alludes to UFC 249 U-turn with blunt message to Dana White amid coronavirus chaos

Khabib Nurmagomedov insists he’s still willing to fight Tony Ferguson later this month, telling the UFC: “Give me location.” Nurmagomedov was scheduled to defend his lightweight title against the Ultimate Fighter season 13 winner a week on Saturday in the main event of UFC 249, a card which currently doesn’t have a venue due to the coronavirus outbreak.

On Wednesday night, however, ‘The Eagle’ appeared to rule himself out of the contest after revealing he’s on lockdown in Russia, who have introduced a blanket travel ban to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

The Dagestani, however, has appeared to have performed a U-turn by insisting he’s still willing to lock horns with ‘El Cucuy’, who he’s been scheduled to face a staggering five times.

He told ESPN: “Right now, if they give me location and I can come out from Russia and I can go to any country.

“US, Abu Dhabi, doesn’t matter. I’m going to fight, 100 per cent. Just give me location.

JUST IN: Conor McGregor breaks silence on Khabib’s withdrawal from UFC 249

Right now, if they give me location and I can come out from Russia and I can go to any country

Khabib Nurmagomedov

“Every day, I send Dana White a message. ‘Hey, where’s my location.’ This is not my mistake.

“Too many crazy stuff, too many questions and I don’t have answer.

“I understand people are upset because this fight, this is like a dream fight for fans. This is my dream fight.

“I lose money, I lose so much money. Nobody lose like I lose. Nobody. I lose so much things. I want to fight.”

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Nurmagomedov came in for intense criticism from Ferguson, Conor McGregor and some sections of the MMA fan base after appearing to withdraw from the fight in an lengthy Instagram statement.

But Russia’s first UFC champion firmly believes the flak he’s received over the last few days has been completely unwarranted.

“Everything [that] happened, everybody knows,” Nurmagomedov said in an Instagram Live broadcast. “I can’t control this!

“My name is Khabib, I am not coronavirus. My name is Khabib, Dana [White] is Dana. Tony Ferguson is Tony Ferguson.

“The No 1 thing that makes me crazy is when people say that I pulled out – I don’t understand this.

“I’m still training, very hard since December.”

The UFC have also irked Nurmagomedov with their failure to inform him of the new location of his long-awaited showdown with Ferguson – which has been five years in the making.

“This is not a regular fight,” he said. “16 days before the fight, I do not know the location. What is this?! This is not professional.”

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Opta co-founder Rob Lowe on rugby league’s statistics revolution

Like many other coaching innovations, regular use of statistical analysis in rugby league can perhaps be traced back to Australian great Jack Gibson.

A student of the methods used by American Football coaches like Vince Lombardi and Dick Nolan, the former Eastern Suburbs and Parramatta head coach is credited as being the first to use computer technology to track player performance and take note of individual tackle counts.

Whereas those were regarded as revolutionary in the 1970s, a wide range of individual and team statistics are now utilised both in the late Gibson’s homeland and on these shores as NRL and Super League clubs seek any small way to gain an edge over their opponents.

In this country, wider collection of data for clubs took off in 1996 when Rob Lowe and colleagues from Leeds University founded Opta Sports and while not all clubs in the newly-formed Super League were immediately receptive, those that were quickly exploited the numbers.

“What we did find was for the teams who took it on, very quickly they found out weak players either in their own team or the opposition team as they would have information on everybody,” Lowe, now an independent sports information consultant, told Sky Sports’ Golden Point podcast.

“Quite quickly, weak defenders or players with very poor work-rates were replaced with players who perhaps weren’t quite as skilful with the ball, but prepared to work harder and defend more robustly.

“Interestingly, we got to a point after three or four years where we could connect the data up to videos so people could review the game and instantly jump into the places they wanted to see, pretty much all of the clubs took it on.

What we did find was for the teams who took it on, very quickly they found out weak players either in their own team or the opposition team as they would have information on everybody

Rob Lowe

“Then we found within about five years, rather than having at minimum a pen and pencil in the office, everybody was a laptop coach and that changed quite quickly.”

There has been little change in that since the early years of this Century, save for technological improvements, but several important statistical trends which correlate to team and player performance have emerged.

Tackle success rate – and particularly the number of missed tackles – is a useful guide to how a team is faring over the course of the season.

Looking at that, it is perhaps no surprise Hull Kingston Rovers spent much of 2019 fighting in a relegation battle and found themselves near the foot of the table again prior to the current season being suspended, having missed the most tackles in Super League in both years.

Most missed tackles in Super League 2020

“Over the years, the biggest correlation between performance of a team and statistics is missed tackles,” Lowe explained.

“Generally, at the end of the season, the teams who have missed the most tackles are at the bottom of the table and the teams at the top have missed the fewest. That obviously works in reverse for breaking tackles.

“Over a long period, that’s a pretty important indicator of success for a team. The other is the ability to make metres, so teams who are making the most metres at the play-the-ball are probably going to overwhelm the other team.”

The latter particularly applies to wingers, who will often have their hands on the ball early in a tackle count due to either catching the ball or taking possession after a catch has been made from a kick in play.

Top metre-makers in Super League 2020

Teams will often utilise their speedy wide men early in a set if they are playing out from inside their own 20-metre zone following a handover rather than simply getting the forwards to try to power their way through as well, and Lowe believes they often under-valued by clubs.

“I always thought, in a lot of cases, wingers are under-rated in their influence on the game because they get the ball at the start of a set of six quite often and if they can make five or 10 extra metres on that first play it makes a massive difference,” Lowe said.

“Whereas a lot of clubs, in terms of the salary cap, don’t spend that much money on wingers.

“Also, the percentage of tries scored by wingers now is massive, so a winger who might score three or four more tries than another because he’s better at finishing in the corner or something like that, that’s going to make a massive difference to you as well.”

That is borne out in the individual statistics from the first seven games of the 2020 season, with three of the top metre-makers being wingers and another, Josh Griffin, being one who is adept at playing either out wide or as a centre.

Two of those, Salford Red Devils’ Ken Sio and Wigan Warriors’ Liam Marshall, are among the top five try-scorers after seven rounds of matches as well, with fellow wingers Ben Crooks – aided by four tries in Hull KR’s season-opener – and Castleford Tigers’ Derrell Olpherts being up there as well.

On the other side, Lowe believes too much emphasis is based on completion rates and that teams who place a premium on a low number of errors are not necessarily focusing on the right area.

“Errors are important, but there is a context to them and it’s dependent on the match situation,” Lowe said. “It’s more when and where they happen rather than the total number.

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McDonald excited but needs Premium effort

Champion jockey James McDonald concedes Japanese star Danon Premium will need to be at his best to win a star-studded Group 1 $2 million Longines Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick next Saturday.

Danon Premium shares the top of Queen Elizabeth betting with another foreign raider, English stayer Addeybb, but the duo won’t lack for opposition.

Tancred Stakes winner Verry Elleegant, New Zealand’s outstanding Te Akau Shark, boom stayer Master Of Wine, veteran champ Happy Clapper and possibly Melbourne Cup winner Vow And Declare are among likely starters for one of the best Queen Elizabeth Stakes fields for years.

McDonald has a good handle on Danon Premium’s opponents, having ridden Verry Elleegant to her runaway win in the Tancred Stakes last start.

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“Verry Elleegant will be a massive force to be reckoned with, the way she is going,” McDonald said. “She can’t be any more impressive.

“Addeybb beat Verry Elleegant (Ranvet Stakes) and is a star in his own right.

“This is a tough renewal of the Queen Elizabeth but he (Danon Premium) is up there with the best of them.’’

Danon Premium is one of Japan’s best racehorses, winning six of his 10 starts, including the Group 1 Futurity Stakes. He also has a second placing in the Group 1 Tenno Sho behind champion mare Almond Eye.

James McDonald looks back at the field as he rides Verry Elleegant to victory in the Tancred Stakes.Source:AAP

He is certainly regarded as a far superior horse to another Japanese raider, Kluger, who ran second, beaten a length-and-a-half behind all-time great Winx in her swan song race, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, last year.

McDonald rode Danon Premium for the first time at Canterbury trackwork late last week, galloping over 1200m with the five-year-old picking up pace from the 600m.

“He felt terrific,” McDonald said. “He is obviously a horse that oozes a lot of class.”

“He has a lot of presence about him. He feels enormous the way he goes through his paces.

“He is a very balanced horse and very push-button the way he executes his gallops. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he felt today.

McDonald picks up the ride on Danon Premium because jockey Damian Lane is unable to travel to Sydney due to the coronavirus protocols.Source:AAP

“It was one of the better pieces of work I have felt for a while.”

McDonald picked up the ride on Danon Premium when Melbourne jockey Damian Lane was unable to travel to Sydney due to the coronavirus protocols.

Sydney’s leading jockey said Danon Premium reminds him of another outstanding Japanese horse, Real Impact, who he rode to win the George Ryder Stakes and finish second in the Doncaster Mile five years ago.

“Real Impact was a star that year, too,” McDonald said. “He was a great miler.

“Danon Premium feels every bit as good as that and is a bit more exposed in terms of better form, so it is pretty exciting.”

McDonald and Verry Elleegant combine to win the Hill Stakes last spring.Source:AAP

QUEEN ELIZABETH STAKES

POT THE HOTSHOT

Japan’s outstanding Danon Premium comes to Sydney with a huge reputation. He is at the top of betting for the Queen Elizabeth Stakes but he has never raced on anything but firm or good tracks. The likelihood of a rain-affected surface could hinder his chances.

BLACK BOOKER

Master Of Wine is a talented stayer on a four-race winning streak. He has brilliant acceleration and toyed with his rivals to win the Sky High Stakes by more than three lengths last start. Team Hawkes has concentrated Master Of Wine’s autumn campaign on this race.

WORTH A THROW

Verry Elleegant was beaten by Addeybb in the Ranvet Stakes after a stirring struggle but she backed up a week later and romped away with the Tancred Stakes. Mares have won the past four Queen Elizabeth Stakes, with Lucia Valentina (2016) before Winx’s three-peat (2017-18-19).

QUEEN ELIZABETH EARLY ODDS

$4 Addeybb, Danon Premium

$4.50 Te Akau Shark

$6 Verry Elleegant

$9 Castelvecchio

$11 Master Of Wine

$15 Melody Belle, Shadow Hero, Vow And Declare

Market: TAB Fixed Odds

Originally published asMcDonald excited but needs Premium effort

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Coronavirus crisis causing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang contract headache for Arsenal chiefs

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is causing a headache for Arsenal bosses amid the coronavirus crisis. The Gunners goal machine faces an uncertain future at the Emirates Stadium because his contract is set to expire at the end of June next year. The likes of Manchester United and Barcelona have been linked with moves for his signature.

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The coronavirus pandemic has ground professional football across the globe to a halt and is set to have knock-on effects.

The Premier League – like a string of competitions across Europe – has been suspended indefinitely and is set to run well into the summer when it does eventually restart.

Clubs are likely to be granted the power by FIFA to extend contracts that are due to expire this June to overcome the issue of losing players with games still to play.

As a result, the opening of the next transfer window is also set to be pushed back.

READ MORE

  • Arsenal have two advantages over transfer rivals in £22.4m battle

And, according to the Daily Telegraph, that will leave Arsenal with limited time to negotiate the long-term deal they hope to offer Aubameyang.

Under the Bosman ruling, players with contracts that run until the summer of 2021 will be free to hold negotiations with foreign clubs at the turn of the year.

Aubameyang is the club’s top scorer with 17 goals in 26 Premier League appearances this term.

Former Arsenal striker Kevin Campbell fears the club will not be able to keep the former Borussia Dortmund ace.

“I just don’t think Arsenal are in a position to keep [Aubameyang],” Campbell told AFTV.

“I can’t see us being able to offer him anything like we think we could.

“We’re not in a great position ourselves and I think he’s one of the assets we can cash in on because there are going to be other positions in the team that need addressing.

“I don’t think it’s [the club or Aubameyang] trying to cause an impasse, I just think it’s timing. The timing is so, so wrong for Arsenal Football Club.”

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Overheard during the NBA 2K Players Tournament

Day 1 of the 16-player NBA 2K20 Players Tournament on ESPN concluded Friday night after four first-round matchups. For each matchup, the players had a chance to choose which team they wanted to control. The winners cannot use the teams they played with Friday night in future rounds.

What follows is some of the fun banter overheard during Friday’s action and spotted on social media:

Read more: NBA 2K20 players tournament predictions | When watching NBA stars play video games is the only game in town

Derrick Jones Jr. (Milwaukee Bucks) 78 vs. Kevin Durant (LA Clippers) 62

ESPN’s Bomani Jones tweeted out: “so i’m checking out a little of this 2k tournament, and what i’ve learned so far is kevin durant has no respect for what ersan ilyasova brings to the table.”

Durant on Ilyasova: “Hold up, they got Ilyasova out here? Cross back … get there … [after Ilyasova makes the steal] Come on man, this is a fluke!”

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Evan Turner thinks Durant is too old to be competing in the tournament.

– Evan Turner (@thekidet) April 4, 2020

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Deandre Ayton (Houston Rockets) 57 vs. Zach LaVine (Miami Heat) 41

LaVine: “Can I pick the All Star team? You’re gonna go with the Rockets!”

Ayton: “I’ve been playing 2K since 2K9 … with KG on the cover. That’s my guy.”

While competing against each other Friday, Ayton and LaVine talked about the last time they faced each other on the court.

Ayton: “You caught me last game, bro. They called timeout after that, I was like yo, I think Zach just dunked on me.”

LaVine: “Aye man, you a big dude, you’re supposed to get dunked on every once in a while.”

Ayton: “It was quick … and you jumped off the wrong leg, so I’m waiting for you to take another step … yeah … that was kinda crazy.”

– Kendrick Perkins (@KendrickPerkins) April 4, 2020

Trae Young (Milwaukee Bucks) 101 vs. Harrison Barnes (Toronto Raptors) 59

Barnes on Dirk Nowitzki: “He was the best man, he was hilarious. By far the funniest teammate. He worked super hard, and he’s a killer on the floor, but he always made sure that he has fun and that everyone around him has fun.”

– Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) April 4, 2020

– Josh Hart (@joshhart) April 4, 2020

Patrick Beverley (Milwaukee Bucks) 84 vs. Hassan Whiteside (Los Angeles Lakers) 54

Beverley: “Get freaky with it, da da dadada da da … Ima beat him by 30! Ima beat him by 30!”

Whiteside: “Man, Giannis is a cheat code, I ain’t gonna lie.”

Beverley: “It ain’t Giannis that’s playing, I’m controlling him. So I’m just a cheat code. You can just call me The Cheat Code, I’ll take that.”

Beverley: “That’s how we get busy. Up 10, just had to lock in a little bit, yes sir, he has no business in my game … no business in my game. Greek, they forgot about you Greek. Yeah Greek, YEEEAAHHHHHHH! I SMELL IT! I knew it, I was too locked in. I was too locked in.”

Beverley after LeBron James’ effort to the hoop gets stopped: “Uh uh. This ain’t video game James, he got some years on him now, he can’t just be jumpin all over the rim now!”

– CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) April 4, 2020

The next four first-round matchups will air Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. ET on ESPN2. The quarterfinals will be on Tuesday from 7 to 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2. And the semifinals and finals will be on April 11 on ESPN.

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Carragher warns Kane time is running out for move to Man United

‘If Kane does not leave soon, the situation gets trickier for him’: Jamie Carragher warns time is running out for big money move to Manchester United for Tottenham striker as when he turns 28 next year there will be ‘no resale value’

  • Manchester United are considering huge offer for Tottenham striker Harry Kane 
  • Jamie Carragher believes 26-year-old Kane must make the move very soon
  • Kane will turn 28 in 2021 and his value to sell on in future will diminish 

Jamie Carragher has cast doubt on the wisdom of Manchester United launching a big-money bid for Tottenham star Harry Kane.

The Old Trafford side were put on alert after Kane admitted he might leave North London in pursuit of trophies and may consider a £150million bid.

However, Carragher feels that, with Kane turning 28 next year, the club may be best seeking to invest in younger talent with higher sell-on values. 

Tottenham striker Harry Kane may consider his future at the club in a bid to win trophies

‘Kane turns 27 in July,’ Carragher told The Telegraph. ‘We have no idea when the next transfer window will open or next season start. If Kane does not leave soon, the situation gets trickier for him.

‘When players hit 28, psychologically it makes a big difference to clubs. They see him as nearer 30, recognise there is no resale value and balk at high valuations.  

‘Manchester United’s need for a top-class No.9 is urgent and they might see Kane as the ideal fit, but they will apply the same logic if the fee is upwards of £150 million.’

Jamie Carragher believes Manchester United may be better off investing in younger talent

 Kane has been out for a significant period of time due to a hamstring injury, but the coronavirus shutdown means he is likely to be fit should any games be played this season.

However, the global pandemic may also have a knock-on effect on the transfer window, and any uncertainty from that could impact the viability of a summer move. 

Carragher voiced his fears that Kane ‘reached the crossroads of his career at the worst time possible’.

He continued: ‘In other circumstances, the Tottenham striker’s comments suggesting he would consider a move in the near future would be reasonable.

‘Spurs fans may not like it, but I can understand why Kane is wondering whether his trophy ambitions will be served elsewhere.’

 

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Jazz undergo layoffs amid coronavirus stoppage

  • Host of The Woj Pod
  • Joined ESPN in 2017

As part of larger corporate cutbacks amid the coronavirus pandemic, layoffs are underway within the Utah Jazz.

Those cutbacks include non-basketball personnel, and some employees are taking salary reductions, sources told ESPN.

The Jazz are one of approximately 80 companies within the Larry H. Miller Group, which confirmed the layoffs as “a small percentage of our workforce” in a statement on Friday afternoon.

The Jazz are the first NBA organization to make layoffs, but several others are considering the possibility, sources said. The NBA has been shut down since March 11, and there are no assurances that the season can resume.

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from this unprecedented pandemic, the (Miller Group) …. unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce. Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.

“We have connected with our associates with outplacement services and aligned them with employers who have immediate hiring needs. We remain focused on helping our communities stay healthy.”

Last month, the Philadelphia 76ers had announced salary reductions for employees making over $50,000 a year, but reversed course shortly afterward because of strong internal and external criticism.

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Wolfe rates Ravens’ new D-line as ‘best’ in NFL

  • University of Maryland graduate
  • Lives in the Baltimore area with his wife and son

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Defensive end Derek Wolfe considered it “a no-brainer” to join Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams along the Baltimore Ravens defensive front.

“We’re going to have the best defensive line in the league, for sure,” Wolfe said in a conference call Friday with Baltimore reporters. “We can break records.”

Wolfe, 30, signed a one-year, $3 million deal with the Ravens on March 28 after spending his first eight seasons with the Denver Broncos.

In teaming with Pro Bowl linemen in Campbell and Williams, Wolfe said Baltimore could break the NFL record for fewest yards per carry (the Ravens hold the Super Bowl mark at 2.69 yards per carry). Wolfe, who set a career high with seven sacks last season, also believes the Ravens’ pass rush will wreak havoc.

“When it comes to our offense getting us up by 10, 20 points a game, it’s going to get ugly for these quarterbacks,” Wolfe said.

The Ravens had some uncharacteristic shortcomings on defense last season. Baltimore allowed a franchise-worst 4.4 yards per carry and its defensive line totaled four sacks, the fewest in the NFL.

The Ravens’ defensive front underwent a makeover in the first month of free agency when defensive tackle Michael Pierce signed with the Minnesota Vikings and defensive end Chris Wormley was traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Baltimore added Campbell through a trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars and then brought in Wolfe, who has long been linked to the Ravens.

Wolfe thought he was originally going to get drafted by the Ravens in 2012, but he was selected in the second round by the Broncos. He then nearly requested a trade to the Ravens last season but said he chose not to do so because he wanted to remain loyal to Denver.

This offseason, Wolfe called his agent when Baltimore’s deal with defensive end Michael Brockers fell apart on March 27 and was told his agent was already on the phone with Ravens officials.

“I was like, ‘Yes,'” Wolfe said. “I don’t care about the money at this point. I just want to get on that team. I feel like I can come in there, prove myself, and they’ll extend me and I’ll be part of the organization for more than one year. That was my goal.”

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