England U20s – What are they up to now?

18 months on from their famous World Cup victory in South Korea the England under 20 squad members are older, wiser and should be in a better position to influence their careers as well as the aid the ambitions of the clubs to which they are contracted.

A 1-0 victory over Venezuela in the final not only gave them memories for the rest of their lives, but probably spurred their more senior counterparts to an unexpected run to the Semi Finals in Russia.

England are gaining admirers across Europe in relation to their current crop of home grown talent.

Sancho is doing it at Dortmund and Hudson-Odoi is being tracked by Bayern and its certain that many more will be subject to bids from abroad should these lads no be able to make their mark at home.

England-Under-20s.jpg

The question is – what are the members of the winning squad up to are these days? We’ve put together an update below…

GK’s

Freddie Woodman

The Newcastle keeper is back up north. After a successful spell with Kilmarnock he is back in the Ladbrokes Premiership with Aberdeen. A promising player in a position that England won’t have trouble with for the next few years. Recipient of the Golden Glove in Korea.

Dean Henderson

Manchester United’s next hot prospect, just a question of will he ever grace the Old Trafford pitch as a red? Currently with Sheffield United and a proper crown favourite.

A loan spell with Shrewsbury saw him help them into the League One Play Off final last season and his early penalty save gave them hope before Rotherham proved too strong.

Reported to be being tracked by some of Europe’s superpowers given his fine performances.

Luke Southwood

The Reading U23 keeper who is yet to make an appearance for the Royals, is currently in the Conference Premier with Eastleigh, a short term loan arrangement.

Defenders

Jonjoe Kenny

The promising right back is one of a number of Everton players in this squad. He has broken into the first team squad and is a definite long term successor to Seamus Coleman. A plus point in the current slump for the side.

Callum Connolly

Currently with struggling Bolton in the Championship but experiences like his current one can be good for a young player. He will be back at Goodison in the summer but most likely to be put out on loan again soon after.

Fikayo Tomori

The Canadian born defender is one of what seems like 100’s out on loan from Chelsea, He is working under the guidance of Blue’s legend Frank Lampard as Derby push for promotion from the Championship. Like many others he will more than likely have to move away from Stamford Bridge to get game time.

Jake Clarke-Slater

Like Tomori a Chelsea “loanee”. Was with Sunderland at the back end of their fatefulNetflix documented campaign although he kept himself out of the limelight. He was then shipped to partner club Vitesse in the Eredivisie for this campaign and made over 20 appearances so far.

Ezri Konsa

Came to prominence at Charlton making over 70 appearances at the heart of the defence. He moved from the Valley to Brentford for a reported £2.5m last summer and has been a virtual ever present for the Bees. A move to a bigger club looks a certainty in the coming years.

Kyle Walker-Peters

The Spurs full back is a squad player at present with just a few mins under his belt. He has not been sent on loan which shows that he is required around Wembley. At a club that doesn’t look like making many signings in the coming windows so he has a chance to make his mark.

Dael Fry

The big 6’4 local lad at Middlesbrough has been used by Tony Pulis this season and will continue to be a bit part player in the coming months. A winner with England at Under 17, 20 and 21 level, impressive.

Midfielders

Lewis Cook

The skipper who hoisted the trophy aloft. He was transferred from Leeds to Bournemouth back in 2016 and is looking like a shrewd investment. His season was cut short pre-Christmas with a nasty cruciate injury, he has a long journey back.

Joshua Onomah

The Spurs man has represented England at a staggering 6 age levels. He has played over 30 games for the North London club and appears to have a future at the new White Hart Lane.Currently at Sheff Wed and under Steve Bruce he could flourish in the coming months.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles

In the Arsenal squad as Emery looks to blood the youth players in various competitions. He recently received social media criticism for his performance at Huddersfield although he was played out of position. Also scored away at Anfield, although sadly it was in a heavy defeat.

Kieran Dowell

Blue through and through, a ball boy at Goodison and idolised Mikel Arteta whilst he was in the academy. Brought in by promotion-chasing Sheffield United to aid their run in towards the Premier League.

A success out at Nottingham Forest last season and looks to be a promising midfielder, needs to be utilised by Everton upon his return.

Sheyi Ojo

The winger seems to have been around for a long time with his multiple loans into the lower leagues.

Helped the currently hopeless Fulham to promotion last season. Although he could end up disappearing into the wilderness.

Ovie Ejaria

Loaned to Rangers to work under former academy coach Gerrard, but deal was cut short suddenly in December with claim he couldn’t settle. Others believe different and an attitude problem may be the true cause.

Like parent club teammate Ojo could slip away, chances at Anfield will be slim to none you’d imagine.

Forwards

Adam Armstrong

After several loans away from Newcastle, Armstrong finally has a permanent home at Blackburn Rovers. He helped them to promotion back to the Championship last season and has continued to cause defences headaches at the higher level. A good footballer.

Dominic Solanke

The Golden Ball winner of the tournament.

After 0 PL appearances for Liverpool this season Solanke signed for Bournemouth early in the January window for a heavy £19m fee, good club to be at but he could be in danger of becoming a wasted talent should he not settle somewhere soon.

Ademola Lookman

Lookman had recently signed for Everton prior to the World Cup, making a handful of appearances before the summer. Post tournament the toffees replaced Koeman with Allardyce who sanctioned a loan to RB Leipzig for Lookman. Back on Merseyside and he’s finding opportunities limited with under-fire Silva despite loud calls from the stands for his inclusion.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin

Figures a lot more at Goodison than Lookman, 20+ appearances this season albeit mainly from the bench. He has an eye for a goal and could turn into a decent top division forward if given the opportunity.

Harrison Chapman

England-World-Cup-Win

Like Armstrong he was sent of various loans from the North East, this time from Middlesbrough. Same home as his international teammate though having signed on at Ewood for the next 2.5yrs.

It’s a crucial time for the developing talent in England and having had success on the International stage, it is key that the feel good factor is capitalised on.

Some of these players have found chances limited in favour of foreign imports or more experienced heads.

Quite simply these young footballers need more faith placed in them, some of these clubs have ready-made talent at their disposal yet are still choosing to spend millions and looking elsewhere.

England cannot miss this opportunity.

England U20 squad image sourced from; www.premierleague.com
England U20 World Cup win image sourced from; www.en.aus.com

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Sunderland AFC

Finally down and out, The 2016/17 season has proved one step too far for Sunderland AFC. Having flirted with relegation for the previous four seasons they have finally succumbed to the dreaded drop.

The parachute payments will pale into insignificance once the fixtures are released in a few weeks’ time for the season ahead. The additional 8 games a season, more midweek fixtures and trips to Burton Albion and Bristol City will hit home hard at The Stadium of Light.

Ever since owner Ellis Short arrived in the North East in 2008 it’s been bad decision after bad decision. 7 permanent managers have come and gone with Short currently on his 9th in David Moyes, someone whom he has made no secret of his admiration for… Moyes has finally been the man to oversee a long overdue relegation.

david-moyes-sunderland

Calamitous spells in charge from the likes of Ricky Sbragia and Paulo Di Canio have not aided the former Man Utd Manager’s cause but this was not the right job for him to step into, he was defeated and downbeat from the off. In fact in the near 10 years in which the club has been under American ownership, the highest win % of any of the gaffers has been a miserable 35.2% under Martin O’Neill, The Irishman lost equally as many games as he won.

So what now for The Mackems?

Just have a look at their squad, terrible and without serious overhaul they could be destined for League One sooner than a Premier League return.

We’ll start with the seemingly obvious, Defoe will go (on a free!! Who’s idea was it to insert that clause into his contract?!) and Pickford will surely look to add to a rapidly increasing reputation with a move to a club in the top flight.

The Rest?

A dressing room full of failed potential and players long past their sell by dates. Jack Rodwell, Darren Gibson, Joleon Lescott, Victor Anichebe, Steven Pienaar, John O’Shea and Seb Larsson are all part of one of the most poorly assembled squads in recent Premier League history.

The Manager?

There are already chants of “Moyes out” from the stands and with an ever diminishing reputation you have to wonder what is going through the Scotsman’s mind as he enters the summer break. He has Championship experience but that was a long time ago, the league has since changed and Sunderland will hardly be favourites for the division with the likes of Aston Villa, Hull and Fulham looking a lot better placed for promotion.

The Boardroom?

You only have to look at recent seasons and you’ll see that there will be very little in terms of funds made available. The Black Cats generally spend what they recoup but with years of the insane Premier League money behind them it’s hard to fathom just where the £100’s Millions are going year on year, or is it?

Sunderland are reported to have the 14th highest wage bill in EUROPE! What?!? One thing is for sure and that is that they have very little in terms of saleable assets to provide funds to buy the relevant personnel that will understand the rough and tumble of championship football.

The side from Wearside need a complete club overhaul to have any chance of returning to the Premier League anytime in the near future. In their current state you have to envisage a mid-table Championship season is the best they can hope for.

We all know the North East of England is a hot bed for football, the fans are extremely passionate with generally very little return from their heroes on the pitch. Big rivals Newcastle have been able to bounce straight back but unless Rafa’s boys implode once more and find themselves in a relegation battle, we wouldn’t expect to have any fierce local derbies in the coming seasons Sunderland fans.

They deserve better than what they’ve recently had to endure.

Sunderland-fans

David Moyes image sourced from; www.skysports.com
Sunderland fans image sourced from; www.chroniclelive.co.uk

Jan 17 Transfer Window – Who needs what?…SPFL edition

The transfer window is fully OPEN!

Scotland is one of the most oddly run football associations in Europe and this is shown in the split between the top division and the rest. Whilst Hibs & Dundee United were contesting a top of the table clash in the extremely competitive Championship, the Ladbrokes Premiership sides have just returned from sunning themselves on a winter break.

This means that any significant transfer activity is in full swing now those planes have landed back at Glasgow or Edinburgh airport over the past few days.

Before the phones start ringing and agents start taking their barely-earned commission cuts we thought we’d run through the leagues and advise who needs what.

The Ladbrokes Premiership is all but over, Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic are currently 19 points clear of the chasing pack but that won’t stop the former Liverpool gaffer spending. The Glasgow giants will bring in a couple of new faces and don’t be surprised to see a relatively big name arrive on loan.

Rumours of Everton’s James McCarthy could prove true however we see a squad being built for a further assault on next seasons Champions League.

The best of the rest include Rangers, Aberdeen and Ian Cathro’s Hearts. The latter has promised a squad overhaul and with his contacts in Spain and the North East, you wouldn’t bet against some known names arriving. Aaron Hughes has already arrived at Tynecastle to add experience and stability to their backline.

The biggest internal transfer could see Niall McGinn move from Aberdeen to Hearts on a pre-contract agreement. A strange one in our opinion, as surely the Northern Irishman will have offers from English Championship clubs as well as abroad.

Niall-McGinn-Image.jpg

Rangers need miracles to close the gap on their nearest and dearest across the City. In a previous article we stated that Mark Warburton is not the man for Ibrox and our thoughts haven’t changed. He will not pinpoint nor attract the correct players for the job, in Scotland 2nd is nowhere…3rd or 4th is unforgivable!

Down at the bottom is where we’ll see the season defining signings with just 6 points separating 6 teams.

Lee Clark has raided his old stomping ground at Newcastle for some loans. ICT will need to either stick or twist with Ritchie Foran in the hope he can find a striker to fire them to safety and Hamilton need to hang onto Ali Crawford to have any chance of remaining in the top tier.

Dundee have enough talent to keep their heads above water, as do Motherwell. However with Sam Allardyce lining up a £500K bid for 12 goal Moult, the Fir Park men will need to reinvest some capital in a key area.

Dropping down a division brings us to the hotly contested Championship. Hibs have already played their cards bringing in Kris Commons and former PNE winger Chris Humphrey, truth be told – they are both too good for this level and give Lennon’s men a significant advantage. Dundee United will need to respond to the business done in Edinburgh and respond quickly they have by recruiting Danish hitman Thomas Mikkelsen, further bodies are required to keep up with the Scottish Cup holders however.

The chasing quartet include an improving Morton and an in-form Dunfermline who will look to build on solid seasons and cement a place in the end of season play offs. A goal scorer to cover for the injured Quitongo in Greenock and a midfield engine, to add to the impressive Callum Morris capture at East End Park are on the respective wish lists.

Over at Peter Houston’s Falkirk they will be keen to hold onto Craig Sibbald whilst bringing in a loan from the top division to add squad depth.

At the foot of the table Jack Ross’ St Mirren are 7 adrift and no amount of incomings are likely to bridge the current gap.

Into Scottish League One and it’s defenders that are required all over! Every club has conceded more goals than games they have played. Livingston will look to capitalise on their current 9 point lead by holding onto top scorer Liam Buchanan, a potential sale of youngster Matthew Knox to Man Utd could provide some much needed investment if they’re to step up a level next season.

Similar to the Premiership, the chasing pack are all closely bunched. Alloa were our pre-season tips for promotion, so we’ll stick with them to challenge. Spence and Kirkpatrick are scoring the goals but they need to keep them out at the back to maintain a push. Mark Wilson could well be calling in some favours from former club Celtic to bring some young talent to aid an Airdrieonians promotion tilt.

Stenhousemuir sit 2nd bottom and are deep in relegation trouble (just as we predicted back in August) they will need to recruit to have any chance of survival.

alloa-airdrie-image

Last but not least we move to the lower reaches of the Scottish football pyramid, League Two.

Pre-season favourites Forfar are leading the way as expected and Gary Bollan will be satisfied with his squad, we cannot foresee any additions at Station Park.

Elgin will need to ensure that they hold onto Shane Sutherland to ensure a play-off spot come May and the rest of the league is open to change every single week. Currently the bottom 4 teams are separated by just a single win, money is null so it’s going to be make do with what you have and hope you do enough to survive from Stirling to Berwick.

Niall McGinn image is sourced from; Aberdeenjournals
Alloa and Airdrie image is sourced from; www.dailyrecord.co.uk

Gary Rowett – A Shocking Sacking!

We all know that in modern football the shelf life of a manager is a short one, a couple of bad results and you’re pleading for your job but when you do a tremendous one, you do not expect to be lining up down the Job Centre.

This is exactly what has happened to Gary Rowett at Birmingham City in the past week.

His services were deemed surplus to requirements on Wednesday and he was immediately replaced with former Chelsea man, Gianfranco Zola.

The news broke shortly after lunchtime and was met with disbelief by most, The Blues are outside of the Championship Play-Off places on goal difference and had just beaten Ipswich 2-1 the previous evening.

Gary-Rowett-Image.jpg

Sadly Rowett’s dismissal is everything that is wrong with the game today. A club financed by foreign money, in this case Chinese backing, has decided that they want to be able to market the club.

They clearly didn’t see the Bromsgrove man as “celebrity enough”, who cares how good he actually is or has been though right!? I mean he is no lovable Italian with 35 international caps is he. Zola, however – has managerial failures on his CV, the former defender has nothing but glowing success.

Birmingham had just been beaten 8-0 by Bournemouth in 2014 when Rowett was appointed to a club 2nd bottom of The Championship, in just over 2 years and having spent just an estimated £4m he has turned them into top half challengers. Let’s remember this season has “big clubs” Newcastle and Villa for the league’s mainstays to contend with.

Rowett’s Record:-

Played – 106

Win’s – 32          Draws – 32          Losses – 32          Win % – 39.6

He leaves the club in a far more stable position in the table whilst attracting the fans that Carson Yeung reign had driven away. The fans are understandably upset by the way in which their new board has behaved but the “supporting your club regardless” mentality will take over and they will get right behind their new man Zola.

There is no doubt that Rowett will be back in the game soon and he appears to have all the right attributes to manage at the highest level, let’s hope his next club treat him with the respect he deserves. It also needs to be said that the 42 year old turned down advances from other clubs whilst in the job at St Andrews, this is where loyalty gets you, terrible.

The FA and LMA should all be stepping in and distancing themselves from assisting Birmingham City in any future endeavours whilst under the current ownership. Fit and proper owners who know, football people…definitely not!

Sorry Birmingham City fans but any football purists now want to see you lose and your new owners to be taught an expensive lesson.

Aston Villa – What Now?

Saturday 16th April will be remembered in the history of Aston Villa Football Club for all the wrong reasons, the day that their relegation from the Premier League was officially confirmed.

A 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford finally hammered the last nail into the coffin and placed that dreaded “R” next to their name in the table.

If we are all honest it was no more than a waiting game from the turn of the year, they have played out one of the poorest season’s the top league has ever seen.

A quick overview this season’s of key events below:-

  • Key men depart in the shape of Delph & Benteke (£40.5Mil income)
  • 12 players arrive, mainly from France for a total of £52Mil
  • October sees the club sack Tim Sherwood and replace with Remi Garde
  • Remi Garde departs and is replaced by Eric Black
  • Gabby Agbonlahor put on a 2 week personal fitness programme
  • Jores Okere refuses to be involved in a match day squad as a substitute

These all make for grim reading and that is leaving out all of the media coverage surrounding Grealish, Lescott, Traore and Agbonlahor’s extremely questionable behaviour whilst not wearing the famous colours.

Aston-Villa

They nearly had a glimmer of a smile with a win at Watford, however avid Birmingham City fan Troy Deeney struck twice in the final 2 minutes to add another defeat to the already long list. It leave the club with the measly total of just 3 wins from 36 attempts.

Disarray from boardroom to touchline has left the easiest of footballing questions even easier to answer…

  • Should Remi Garde have been appointed with no PL experience?
  • Would Tim Sherwood and Ray Wilkins have done a worse job?
  • Should they have spent all their money on untested players from Ligue 1?
  • Are Hutton, Lescott, Richardson or Sinclair still good enough for this level?
  • Were Aston Villa likely to be better than a minimum of 3 other sides this season?

We’ll save you wasting any brain power, the answer is a resounding NO to all 5 questions.

But it now needs to be onwards and back upwards for The Villans. They must recruit the right manager and do it quickly.

The Championship is an unforgiving league, all those midweek trips to Rotherham, Wolves and Reading among others will take their toll.

Among the contenders mentioned are Nigel Pearson, David Moyes and Steve Bruce. To be honest we can’t see any of these being the right men for the Trinity Road Stand dugout.

Villa need something different, someone who knows the leagues and does well on a budget whilst producing results.

Simon Grayson currently at Preston North End could be a good call, a former player with multiple football league promotions on his CV.

Simon-Grayson

They need a complete squad overhaul, it’s the only way.

Get rid of all the deadwood and rebuild, if it takes 2 or 3 seasons then so be it. Aston Villa need to stop being a home for footballers that no one else wants.

A guideline would be as follows, presenting the out the door XI:-

Guzan

Hutton     Okore     Lescott     Cissokho

Sinclair     Bacuna     N’Zogbia     Richardson

Agbonlahor     Kozak

Hundreds of thousands of pounds saved per week by ridding yourselves of this useless lot, promoting youth and re-investing in solid lower league footballers.

Combine youth and solidity with the Westwood’s, Gestede’s and Richards’ you have a decent starting line up with a fighting chance at a top 6 finish.

This is potentially the most crucial period in their 141 year history.

All the best to Aston Villa and their fans, the Premier League needs sides like you albeit a strong competitive version.

Villa-Park-Fans

Aston Villa players image sourced from; www.skysports.com/astonvilla
Simon Grayson image sourced from; www.football-league.co.uk
Villa Park fans image sourced from; www.birminghammail.co.uk

Ticket Prices; The Cost of Being a Fan

This week has seen the much published Liverpool £77 ticket walk out and subsequent retraction by the club’s owners.

Well done Liverpool fans but I fear it won’t be long until we see and hear the same old story.

Fans are no longer fans in the eyes of most clubs… they are customers.

They care not for the generations of families that have arrived season after season, the children of fans that are born to be future fans or for how much it costs the average person to attend the game they love week in week out.

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I have been to grounds all over England and Scotland, seen some of the best / worst teams and paid anything from £10 to £50 for the privilege.

Play this Primary School game of “match them up” and see if you can get the matches and ticket prices correct (answers at the bottom of the page)

All recent games that I have been to

Game Ticket Price
Scotland v England (2014) £20
Man Utd v Sunderland (2015) £30
Man City v Crystal Palace (2016) £50
Stoke v Sheff Wed (2015) £45
Motherwell v Dundee United (2014) £27

The variances and statures of these games isn’t massively varied in terms of importance or indeed location but as you can see the prices are up to £30 apart.

With the global branding and money TV generates, the Premier League clubs do have a certain luxury that most do not, they will have fans arrive from all over the world and pay the prices just to say they have been to The Emirates, Old Trafford etc.

The envy outside of the top tier is obvious and growing with the imminent influx of the “new TV money” from next season. They however do not help themselves:-

Selected Fixtures For 13th Feb

League One – Colchester v Swindon £27

League Two – Morecambe v Oxford £24

National League – Grimsby v Boreham Wood £18

SPL – Hearts v Patrick Thistle £28

These and most other clubs outside the BPL have thousands upon thousands of empty seats each week, why not charge a lower price and attract more fans?

We all love a couple of pints, food, a programme and this is all before travel and in some cases hotel charges.

Football is now a day out that has to be planned and budgeted for in advance and this is extremely saddening.

As much as we all need to be following the lead set by some of the Anfield faithful against Sunderland we know we can’t stay away from our teams and will generally pay for the privilege to go… win, lose or draw.

Hopefully many Chairmen and boards will be pro-actively looking for solutions in the near future.

Football without fans is nothing!

Bayern-Munich-Fans-at-Arsenal-V2

Answers as promised, were you right?

Scotland v England (2014) £50
Man Utd v Sunderland (2015) £45
Man City v Crystal Palace (2016) £30
Stoke v Sheff Wed (2015) £20
Motherwell v Dundee United (2014) £27

Liverpool fans image sourced from; www.thisisanfield.com
Bayern Munich fans image sourced from; ftw.usatoday.com

Are we starting to see the managerial failing of Neil Lennon?

Neil Lennon was Celtic Manager between March 2010 – May 2014, in this time he had the opportunity to secure 14 domestic trophies with the biggest club in the country.

Neil-Lennon-Celtic-Trophy

Add into this the demise of Rangers during the 2011-12 season and their subsequent relegation to the 3rd tier of Scottish football, Lennon really should have delivered more than the 5 trophies he eventually did.

3 SPL titles & 2 Scottish Cups was in my opinion a poor return for a manger with all the resources at his disposal.

His attitude and touchline demeanour were nothing short of scandalous at times and his inability to praise other teams for good performances was a serious flaw. Lennon also likes to play the blame game, with the blame staying as far away from himself as possible.

Yes there was the memorable Champions League campaign of 2012-13, the beating of the mighty Barcelona and qualification from the group made a lot of people sit up and take notice. However with Lennon’s other 3 UCL campaigns ending before group stage qualification (2) or a disappointing 1 win group stage exits (1) you may put that particular season down to the 1st season absence of the neighbours from across the city.

Good signings in the form of Gary Hooper, Virgil Van Dijk and Emilio Izaguirre were countered balanced by big money flops such as Teemu Pukki, Derk Boerrigter and Mo Bangura.

Again basing it on trophies won, you’d have to question Lennon’s ability to drive a team too good for the SPL in truth, onto win everything in their path.

A total of 42 signings came through the door in his time, 10+ per season to achieve what exactly?

Well a major positive from Lennon’s time is the transfer fees Celtic have managed to receive for numerous players. It’s a shame they don’t treat the other SPL teams with the same respect as they demand to be shown in this area, but that’s another story.

However the fact that he was seen as such as success really has to be questioned, the majority of us could take on the Celtic job and at least win 1 trophy per season.

Key question – Are Celtic in safer hands under Delia or is he another Lennon is disguise?

Upon leaving Celtic he was linked with numerous roles down south including Leicester City, Cardiff City and Fulham before ultimately officially being approached by Bolton Wanderers.

Now the Trotters are a team lacking funds having had the last of their parachute payments and by paying poor players too high wages for an extra season or two since relegation.

He has since taken charge of 51 matches, winning just 14 leaving him with a poor win % of 27.45%.

Neil-Lennon-Bolton-Manager

Questionable signings of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Emile Heskey and Gary Madine show that without the considerable funds and pull of fortress Parkhead, he struggles to build a squad.

Could Lennon not have used his “experience” to take some of the better SPL players and give them a chance to prove their worth in the North West?

Bolton Wanderers currently sit bottom of one of the toughest and most competitive leagues in Europe, The Sky Bet Championship and I for one wouldn’t bet against Lennon and Bolton parting ways before relegation looms towards the business end of the season.

Neil-Lennon-Bolton-Wanders-Manager

Neil Lennon & Celtic Cup Win image sourced from; www.bbc.co.uk
Neil Lennon & Matt Miles image sourced from; www.thedailymail.co.uk
Neil Lennon bottom image sourced from; www.theguardian.com