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Blues alert

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 09:47 PM PST

Terry warns teammates of Everton danger at Goodison

Friday, January 28th, 2011 13:33:00

Football

NEXT TARGET, EVERTON: Terry (second from left) with teammate Frank Lampard after their match against Ipswich last week

LONDON: Champions Chelsea's captain John Terry warned the Blues of the danger posed by Everton ahead of their FA Cup clash at Goodison Park tomorrow.

Chelsea booked their place in the fourth round with a 7-0 thrashing of Ipswich earlier this month but Terry is prepared for a much tougher examination on Merseyside.

"Everton are in and out of form but against the big sides, especially at home, they do tend to raise their game so it is going to be a big test for us, but we are certainly up for the fight and we won't give up," he told his club's website.

"We have a great mix of players and one thing you can't take away is the winning mentality."

At the same time, Terry also insists he has not slipped this season. Some pundits feel Terry has struggled not only for fitness, but also form.

But the centreback is content with how he is playing.

"I've been impressed with my own form all season," he said.

Everton will enter the clash in high spirits after they came away with a point from Stamford Bridge early last month in the Premier League and midfielder Leon Osman is hoping the Toffees can repeat their 2009 FA Cup run which saw them reach the final, where they incidentally lost to Chelsea.

"Hopefully we'll have a good run again. Chelsea are one of the top sides in the country, if not Europe, but hopefully we'll get the crowd behind us and have a good cup tie," Osman told BBC Sport.

Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, meanwhile, admitted he had been hurt by manager David Moyes' decision to leave him out of the first team on a regular basis.

The Russia international made just three starts this season as well as 16 appearances from the bench — his latest seeing him score in the 2-2 draw against West Ham last Saturday.

Bilyaletdinov joined Everton from Lokomotiv Moscow at the beginning of the 2009-2010 season for a fee believed to be around £8.9 million but he has failed to nail down a regular place.

However, with defender Leighton Baines recently stating his wish for a consistent left-sided partner following the departure of Steven Pienaar to Tottenham, the 25-year-old may now get his chance.

Bilyaletdinov was at a loss to explain why he has not been given more opportunities this season, but was hopeful that Pienaar's exit would give him the chance to start regularly.

"With the exit of Pienaar. I will have more chances and I am going to take a tight grip on them," he said.

"But at the same time I do not want that my return to the squad is connected only with the other man's exit.

"What do I feel? I feel hurt a bit.

"There are weeks when I fly in training, the manager speaks highly of me, but still I am not in the team. At such moments I try to focus on something positive, force myself to work even harder — for the future.

"The realisation that I am training in great conditions, in a strong team, participating in the strongest European league helps me."

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Hairdryer today, gone tomorrow

Posted: 27 Jan 2011 09:38 PM PST

United looking good for unblemished season

Friday, January 28th, 2011 12:44:00

Football

HAIR-DRYER HEADMASTER: Ferguson meets hairdressing students at Govan High School last year

Earlier this season, I was privileged to be given a personal tour around Old Trafford.

My ESPN crew and I were shooting a piece for our pre-match show ahead of live coverage of the Manchester United agianst Liverpool clash, and we thought it would be good to give viewers an insight on how the players spend their time immediately before a big match.

With our very own tour guide ushering us through some of the most famous corridors in the world of football, we found ourselves in the players' dressing room and staring at the white board, upon which, allegedly, Sir Alex Ferguson pens his tactics.

With a well practiced banter delivered in a semi-thick Mancunian drawl, he then pointed to a small cupboard below the board and deadpanned, "and this is where Sir Alex keeps the hairdryer."

Overcoming the temptation to ask, "Really… can we see it? Is it locked?" the incident nevertheless gave me an impression of the legendary status of the man who has been at the managerial helm of the club for more than 24 years, and for whom former players and the media have already created a mythology.

Obviously the hairdryer doesn't exist, and indeed Fergie's infamous bursts of anger have nothing to do with an electrical appliance, but you can easily forgive the less urbane Old Trafford tourists from imagining that he may have resorted to the use of props when delivering a tirade.

The fact is that the phrase the "hairdryer treatment" is derived from revelations made by former Red Devil Mark Hughes, who described a confrontation in the dressing room with Fergie.

"He would stand nose-to-nose with you and just shout and bawl; and you would end up with your hair behind your head."

It's a wonderful image, even if slightly colourful and even possibly apocryphal, but it's the stuff of legends and it inspires both fear and respect.

If Fergie, as he claims, has mellowed over the years, it's clear that he still retains the ability to get the best out of his players, as was witnessed on Tuesday night at Bloomfield Road.

United were 2-0 down at the break against Blackpool, having been played off the park in the first half.

Their unbeaten run in the league (United became only the seventh team in top flight history to go through 21 games of the season without suffering a defeat) was under serious threat, with Ian Holloway's Tangerines asking all the questions in the first 45 minutes, and the United thoroughbreds getting all the answers wrong.

Whatever was said in the dressing room at half-time, and whatever implements Fergie may have used, it worked.

United were a different side in the second-half, and received their just desserts.

The introduction of Ryan Giggs at halftime was key, as were the resources that United were able to call on as the match progressed.

Javier Hernandez came on and caused the Blackpool backline no end of problems with his expertly timed runs and youthful exuberance, and when you have the league's leading goalscorer in your ranks, you're always in with a chance.

What was possibly the most worrying aspect of United's performance over the 90 minutes – "worrying" for every other team in the Premier League – is the fact that there was an inevitability to their win.

Not one United player ever looked as though he didn't believe that not only were they not going to lose the game, but that they were going to emerge with all three points.

This is the belief that Fergie engenders, and whether he achieves it by lambasting individuals for a poor display, or putting his arm around them and telling them that he knows they can do better, he knows the way.

Even with 18 minutes remaining in the game against Blackpool, and United still two goals down, onlookers knew that it was only a matter of time before the visitors got back into the game.

Having dodged the Blackpool bullet, and having already achieved several results this season that were better than the performances may have merited, the question on everyone's lips is "Can United remain unbeaten in the league for the entire season?"

Fergie continues to play down any expectations of emulating Arsenal in 2003-2004, when "The Invincibles" won 26 games and drew 12 of their 38, but it must be in the back of his mind.

United, as we know from experience, get stronger as the season progresses, and at this juncture, they're already five points clear at the top.

With Dimitar Berbatov continuously scoring, and United having rather more strength in depth than any of us considered back in August 2010, a blemishless campaign could well be on the cards, while the hairdryer is almost certain to remain under lock and key.

  • Catch Andrew Leci on Monday Night Verdict every Monday at 8pm on ESPN and send in your feedback to theverdict@espnstar.com
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