McGregor, who spent 14 years with Rangers before his move to Turkey last summer, has won 29 caps for his country. He returned in August 2010 from over a year in international exile after he was dropped over a late-night drinking session with team-mate Barry Ferguson. The pair were then caught making v-signs to photographers while on the substitutes’ bench during a game against Iceland. His move to the KC Stadium, which is subject to international clearance, represents the latest step in City boss Steve Bruce’s efforts to strengthen his defence ahead of the top-flight campaign. Bruce has already signed defender Curtis Davies from Birmingham and given new contracts to centre-back James Chester and full-back Liam Rosenior. McGregor fills one of the club’s primary needs for the new season, with the erratic Eldin Jakupovic and the untried Mark Oxley the only senior keepers previously on their books. Hull took Fulham’s David Stockdale on loan for the latter part of last season. Forward Sone Aluko was quick to welcome his former Gers team-mate to East Yorkshire, writing on Twitter: “Buzzing McGregor has signed for us! Top class keeper and what a guy! Welcome to Hull Greegsy!!” The 31-year-old has signed a three-year deal at the KC Stadium as the Tigers continue to prepare for their return to the Barclays Premier League. McGregor told hullcityafc.net: “I’m really excited to be here and I’m happy that everything is done now. I can’t wait to get started here. This is a great chance for me to play in the Premier League and I’m looking forward to the season ahead.” Hull have completed the signing of Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor from Besiktas for an undisclosed fee. Press Association
“At the end of 2013, if I have not won another major I will be disappointed.” Two months after expressing those thoughts, McIlroy was replaced as world number one by Tiger Woods and now finds himself third in the rankings behind Phil Mickelson. And unless he retains his US PGA title next week at Oak Hill, that disappointment of not winning a major championship in 2013 will hit home too. The bookmakers have the 24-year-old from Northern Ireland as a 28/1 seventh favourite to lift the Wanamaker Trophy again and it is hard to argue with those odds. In fact it could easily be argued they are not generous enough. McIlroy won five times last year, including his second major by eight shots at Kiawah Island, to finish top of the money list on both sides of the Atlantic. But he has recorded only one top-five finish in a turbulent 2013 that saw him damage his reputation by walking off the course during his defence of the Honda Classic and bending one of his new clubs out of shape during the final round of the US Open. In the majors he has managed just one round under 70 – a closing 69 in the US Masters – and is a collective 28 over par after missing the cut in the Open Championship after rounds of 79 and 75. That opening round at Muirfield led McIlroy to offer a withering assessment of his own performance, labelling it “brain dead” and claiming he sometimes felt “like I’m walking around out there and I’m unconscious”. Such honesty made for great headlines, but is it great for McIlroy? “Sometimes (I wish I wasn’t so honest) but it’s just me,” he said. “I am not going to sit up here and pour my heart out but I will tell you how I am thinking and what’s on my mind. If I get asked a reasonable question I will give a reasonable answer.” The answer to McIlroy’s problems on the course may prove harder to find, but the Ryder Cup star is hoping a few enjoyable rounds with friends back home in Northern Ireland last week, coupled with the advice of putting coach Dave Stockton, will set him on the right track. He insists his game was in worse shape at this time last year before a fifth-place finish in Akron kickstarted a stunning second half of the season. And he believes competing at Firestone is the perfect preparation for what lies ahead at Oak Hill, venue for the 1995 Ryder Cup and the scene of Shaun Micheel’s US PGA triumph in 2003. “They are both old-fashioned, traditional golf courses,” McIlroy said. “The fairways at Oak Hill have a little more bend to them, you have to shape a lots of shots at Oak Hill; here a lot of them are straight out in front but the greens are similar, quite small and sloping and the par threes at both courses are strong holes. “I’ve heard the rough is up at Oak Hill from when I was there six weeks ago so I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like.” “I don’t play golf for the money, I am well past that,” McIlroy said in Abu Dhabi after signing a deal reported to be worth around £150million over 10 years. “I’m a major champion and world number one, which I have always dreamed of being, and feel this is a company that can help me sustain that and win even more major titles. Press Association At the press conference to announce his multi-million pound deal with Nike in January, Rory McIlroy was keen to stress major titles mattered more to him than money.
Pellegrini said: “Kompany is in the squad list and he is travelling with the team. “Vincent is a very important player. He is a very good defender and, of course, we need him. “He is also the captain of the team and he will normally be in the 11 starting. “We have other captains but all the team is happy with the return of the captain. “But I repeat, we don’t have as many problems in defending as the scores say and the results say. “I think we have the third best defensive record in the Premier League. “In the last five (domestic) games just Sunderland have scored one goal (against us). In all the others we have had clean sheets. “So the other defenders can do it as well, but Vincent is always an important player.” Yet it can be argued that some of City’s exhilarating home performances – including 7-0 and 6-0 thrashings of Norwich and Tottenham respectively – have masked defensive deficiencies. These have particularly come to light away from home and City have lost at Chelsea and Sunderland during Kompany’s absence. They were also beaten at Cardiff in August in another game Kompany missed. In all, City have lost four out of six away games – a statistic which contrasts sharply with their 100 per cent home record and is threatening to undermine their title challenge. They will hope to start putting that right this week as the West Brom game is followed quickly by a trip to Southampton, although Pellegrini maintains the approach to all games has been the same. The Chilean said: “Against Aston Villa, against Cardiff and against Sunderland we made individual mistakes that decided the match but we didn’t give the home team five, six, seven (scoring) options each game. “It is important to concentrate more. It is more an aspect of concentration and intensity during the whole match. “This week we play two games away before we play against Arsenal here at home, so I hope we will be the same team we are here in those two games this week.” City’s inability to replicate their home form on the road is puzzling but West Brom, who also have a good reputation for attacking football, will want to test their resolve further. Pellegrini said: “They are a very strong team – a mixed team. Sometimes they play long, sometimes they want to build up short. “They are a strong team in the air and a very strong team defending, so we need to play a good match. “I saw the games they played against Chelsea in London and the draw at home against Aston Villa and they are a difficult team.” The potential return of Kompany is timely, with fellow central defender Matija Nastasic out with a calf injury. Playmaker David Silva and striker Stevan Jovetic also remain on the sidelines with similar problems. The other major selection issue in recent weeks has concerned the goalkeepers, but Costel Pantilimon seems likely to be retained ahead of England’s Joe Hart. Hart did play in last week’s Champions League tie against Viktoria Plzen, but Pantilimon has been the man in possession since the start of November and impressed against Swansea on Sunday. Pellegrini said: “Joe Hart continues to be the number one of England. He is a very good goalkeeper. “But Pantilimon has played seven games – four in the Premier League in which he has conceded just one goal – so that is also important for the team. “They are two important goalkeepers. I trust in both of them. At the moment I am playing Pantilimon, but you saw the other day when Joe Hart played he did very well.” City have declined to comment on a report they have struck a deal potentially worth up to £2.4million for 14-year-old Malaga player Brahim Abdelkader Diaz. Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini insists he has faith in all his defenders – but cannot deny the imminent return of Vincent Kompany is significant. Press Association Kompany, the influential captain and centre-back, is poised to return to action after 10 games out with a thigh injury as City travel to West Brom in the Barclays Premier League in midweek. The Belgian has been missed for his leadership, organisational and defensive skills and will be gladly welcomed back at The Hawthorns, even though Pellegrini believes his deputies have fared well.
Mourinho attended a personal hearing on Wednesday following an improper conduct charge after he was sent to the stands by referee Chris Foy towards the end of a 1-0 loss at Villa Park. But the Portuguese was on Thursday fined £8,000 and warned as to his future conduct by the Football Association. It is understood Mourinho is unhappy with the verdict and is waiting for the independent regulatory commission’s written reasons before deciding how to respond and whether to appeal against the ruling. It was the second time Mourinho had been sent to the stands this season. Following his sending off against Cardiff in October, Mourinho accepted the charge and was fined £8,000, but he was not prepared to leave the latest charge unchallenged. He said: “It can be £1. It’s the principle.” Mourinho was dismissed after Ramires had been shown a red card for an over-the-top tackle on Karim El Ahmadi. As well as Ramires, Willian was sent off during the contest. The Chelsea manager came on to the pitch as a melee ensued involving players from both teams, with the substituted Gabriel Agbonlahor and Villa manager Paul Lambert also on the pitch. Chelsea will learn their Champions League semi-final opponents on Friday with manager Jose Mourinho preferring to focus on the Premier League. Mourinho has cancelled his weekly media briefing ahead of Sunday’s match at Swansea, preferring to turn his players’ attention to ending Chelsea’s three-match losing streak away from home at the Liberty Stadium. Prior to the 3-1 loss at Paris St Germain – a result Chelsea overturned on Tuesday to reach the last four of the Champions League – the Blues were beaten at Aston Villa and Crystal Palace. The Portuguese claimed he was only attempting to cool tempers, and to ask Foy why he had not sent off Agbonlahor for accosting Ramires, but the referee was not interested and he dismissed the Chelsea manager. Mourinho then asked to speak to Foy in the referee’s room, but he did not want to speak to the Chelsea boss. The Blues boss then called on the Premier League not to appoint Foy for Chelsea matches. Mourinho has been seething since the loss at Villa, the first of two away defeats in succession in the Premier League. After the defeat at Crystal Palace, Mourinho conceded Chelsea’s title chances were over, although they are two points behind leaders Liverpool entering this weekend’s fixtures. Mourinho said recently: “Can we play against Aston Villa again? No. “The momentum was broken. Somebody broke the momentum.” Mourinho also believes Foy’s performance could prove costly for Chelsea. He said: “The other matches we lost because we didn’t play well. You find the natural reasons for losing a match. “If you go to the Villa match it’s difficult. What happened in the defeat against Villa I never learn, I never accept. “Somebody was very successful in putting a hurdle in front of us. And we crashed the hurdle against Aston Villa and we lost. “Villa was not a normal football match and we always hope that football matches are normal.” Mourinho also left his technical area after Demba Ba’s decisive strike against PSG in Tuesday’s 2-0 win, racing down the touchline in celebration and to provide tactical instructions. The Portuguese has avoided punishment from UEFA, though. UEFA told Press Association Sport: “No disciplinary proceedings have been opened in this regard.” Press Association
Rory McIlroy believes fellow Northern Irishman Darren Clarke would make an ideal Europe captain for a Ryder Cup in the United States. Press Association “There would be no better candidate from the European side,” McIlroy told the BBC. ” He is absolutely loved over there. He would be just as well received in the United States as probably the United States captain. “So, it can only be an advantage for the European team if Darren was to lead us out.” McIlroy, who also voiced strong support for McGinley’s candidacy late in the selection process, was interviewed with Clarke and Graeme McDowell for a programme entitled ‘Major Champions’, to be aired on BBC1 Northern Ireland on Wednesday and BBC2 on Thursday. Clarke, 46, was in contention to be named captain for this year’s contest at Gleneagles before ruling himself out of the running, with Paul McGinley appointed in January 2013. The 2016 Ryder Cup will be held at Hazeltine in Minnesota and McIlroy reckons that former Open champion Clarke would be suited to taking the job across the Atlantic.
Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs’ third head coach in a year, has endured a tough start to life at the White Hart Lane helm, failing to get his side playing the attractive, incisive style which became a hallmark of the Argentinian’s time at Southampton. Worse still, the north Londoners have struggled to pick up points, with Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Stoke their fourth defeat in just six Premier League home matches. Former Tottenham chairman Lord Sugar has defended current incumbent Daniel Levy amid increasing pressure. That poor start has seen those from Pochettino to technical director Franco Baldini come under fire, so too divisive chairman Levy. Supporters are aiming a lot of ire in his direction but former Tottenham chairman Sugar believes that anger is misdirected. “All you can expect from a chairman is the following: to provide the money for your football staff to do what they want to do, negotiate hard and bitterly if one of your best players has got a death wish to want to leave, and to provide an environment like a new stadium or training ground and all that kind of stuff,” he told talkSPORT. “That is all the chairman can do. “People saying ‘Levy out, Levy out’, they don’t know what they are talking about. If Spurs are going to progress, he is their best ally. All he can do is listen to the managers that he appoints. “They got £100million a year ago for the sale of Gareth Bale. They went out and spent it on seven players. Baldini, or whatever his name is, and Andre Villas-Boas must have had some input into that and therein lies the problem, in my opinion. “If we have bought the wrong players and the money has been used irresponsibly, you have got to look at the person that guided you in that direction.” Press Association
Press Association Barton was dismissed for the ninth time in his career when he aimed a low blow at Tom Huddlestone as players clashed following a foul by QPR debutant Darnell Furlong. It was a dereliction of duty from the midfielder and with his side already a goal down to Nikica Jelavic’s volley, it should have spelled the end of the strugglers’ chances. QPR captain Joey Barton added a red card and another moment of madness to his tainted CV as birthday boy Dame N’Doye delivered a dramatic 2-1 win for Hull. It was his 12th goal for the club, making him Hull’s top Premier League goalscorer, ahead of the club’s former Brazilian forward Geovanni. QPR went close to an instant reply, Barton crossing for Furlong whose looping header had Allan McGregor scrambling at the far post. There were further chances at both ends, Jake Livermore drilling over after a neat touch from Jelavic and Phillips causing panic with a curling cross into Hull’s six-yard box. Then came the sending-off. Furlong was culpable for setting events in motion, leaving his foot in on Jelavic, but Barton can only blame himself for what came next. As the players came together he pushed Alex Bruce and when Huddlestone moved towards him he lashed out inexplicably. His dismissal almost cost QPR immediately as Jelavic nodded a fraction wide, but instead the 10 men drew level inside six minutes. A fluid passing move ended with another superb cross from Phillips, with Austin flashing his header across McGregor and in at the far post. His celebration quickly turned into a tongue-in-cheek pop at Hull’s medical staff. The sides went in at 1-1 and manager Bruce waited just eight minutes after the restart to make an attacking change, defender Alex Bruce making way for Gaston Ramirez. It was increasingly tough going for the home side though, QPR committing numbers in defence and packing the final third. Hull were trying to build patiently, but after 66 minutes Tigers boss Bruce made a second aggressive switch – removing Livermore and bringing on £10million striker Abel Hernandez. When Austin left the field with 15 minutes to go, he was treated to a mild chorus of boos but the home fans were half-hearted in their catcalls and quickly resumed pleading for a winner. Hull had no shortage of possession but could not seem to fashion anything to test Rob Green, surprisingly underworked in the away goal. N’Doye thought his chance to win it had gone when his point-blank effort was beaten out by Green but the ball was still alive. Brady returned it to the danger area and this time N’Doye made no mistake as he powered a header into the net. But Charlie Austin glanced home Matt Phillips’ sumptuous cross in the 39th minute and that appeared to be enough for a hard-fought draw until N’Doye celebrated his 30th birthday with a close-range header in the 89th minute. Austin had marked his equaliser by hobbling away and clutching his knee – a none-too-subtle jibe referencing the failed medical that cost him a move to the KC Stadium in 2013. Manager Steve Bruce admitted on the eve of the match that he had missed out on a gem in the former Burnley striker, but with deadline-day signing N’Doye scoring for the second game in a row, he at least has a new match-winner to toast. The result sees Hull record back-to-back league wins for the first time in 17 months, while QPR suffered a major setback in their own relegation battle. Hull misplaced a series of passes in the opening minutes, Paul McShane setting the tone by hoofing a cross-field ball into touch after a matter of seconds. But the hosts quickly settled and began dictating the tempo, Ahmed Elmohamady threatening on the right and Huddlestone enjoying space at the base of the midfield. Jelavic had a couple of half-chances as he looked for space behind the Rangers defence and broke the deadlock after 16 minutes. Huddlestone fired a free-kick into the penalty area and when Steven Caulker’s tame header dropped for Jelavic, he buried it in the bottom corner with a clinical volley.
Press Association Former Arsenal captain Thierry Henry believes with the right additions, star man Alexis Sanchez can fire the Gunners to the Barclays Premier League title next season. It is, however, the performances of Sanchez, now leading Chile’s hopes at the Copa America, which for Henry will be key. “As an Arsenal fan I am very excited about next season and hopefully we can bring some people to the club, some new players maybe but when you have a guy like Alexis Sanchez anything can happen. Hopefully he can fire us to the title next year,” said Henry, Arsenal’s record goalscorer and member of the Invincibles 2003/2004 squad. “Look at what he did in the FA Cup final and what he has been doing since his arrival. He has been more than tremendous.” Henry said on Arsenal Player: “We want to see that more and more and I know that he has that in his locker. When you have a guy like Alexis Sanchez, it is the X-factor. “He is the guy who can change the course of a game. I love the way he plays, he plays with his heart and I know the fans love that about him.” The departure of Arsenal goalkeeping coach Tony Roberts for Swansea has fuelled speculation the way is being cleared for Cech’s arrival from Chelsea. The 33-year-old hopes to stay in London, and despite Blues manager Jose Mourinho not wanting to sell him to a direct rival, is believed to now have accepted the wishes of the player who does not want to remain as understudy for Thibaut Courtois. It has been suggested Chelsea goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon would also be making a switch to the Emirates Stadium. Should Cech’s expected arrival materialise, then David Ospina could be set to depart just a season after the Colombia international’s arrival from Nice, with Fenerbahce said to be a likely destination. Arsenal appear on the verge of bringing in veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea. Manager Arsene Wenger is also expected to strengthen the outfield, with targets such as Porto forward Jackson Martinez, Monaco midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia, Borussia Dortmund’s Sven Bender and Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin.
Middlesbrough are close to bringing former England midfielder Stewart Downing back to the Riverside Stadium from West Ham. Boro have been in talks with the Hammers for some time over their former Academy graduate, who left the club for Aston Villa in a £12million switch in July 2009. It appears he is surplus to requirements under new boss Slaven Bilic and despite interest from other suitors, including Barclays Premier League club Sunderland – with whom Downing had a loan spell earlier in his career – the Riverside seems to be his preferred destination. Head coach Aitor Karanka and his players are currently training in Marbella with the club’s medical staff on hand, meaning there could be delay in processing medical checks before a transfer could be completed. Press Association Press Association Sport understands that no fee has yet been agreed between the clubs, but that discussions have progressed and there is an appetite to do a deal, meaning the 30-year-old could be on his way to Teesside within days. Downing has been left out of the Hammers squad for their Europa League clash with Birkirkara on Thursday evening.
Press Association The victory sparked scenes of wild jubilation as Northern Ireland reached their first major tournament in 30 years, a prize which may just persuade the IFA that the 7,000 euro (£5,040) fine is a price worth paying. In a statement on its website, the IFA indicated it would not appeal against the decision from UEFA’s Control Ethics and Disciplinary Body. The Irish Football Association has been handed a UEFA fine for the pitch incursions which came after Northern Ireland beat Greece 3-1 at Windsor Park to secure their place in the Euro 2016 finals. Following the win over Greece, Northern Ireland drew 1-1 away to Finland to secure top spot in Group F.