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PLAY IT SHORT: Hodgson can help Man Utd, Man City in Lampard bid; You can't write-off Beckham; Wenger lacking authority on Europe; Crewe treatment a disgrace

HODGSON UNITED'S BEST ALLY IN LAMPS PURSUITAs he proved yesterday, Frank Lampard has far too much left to offer the Premier League to be allowed to leave this summer. If Chelsea are silly enough to allow him to move on, you can be sure Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal won't be. Roy Hodgson will be their biggest ally and is sure to be in Lampard's ear this week urging him to postpone his move to Los Angeles and the LA Galaxy until after World Cup 2014.

DOES WENGER STILL HAVE CREDIBILITY?Does Arsene Wenger really have the authority to talk about Premier League standards slipping? Sure, 15 years of Champions League football offers some credibility. But for the here and now, with Arsenal 24 points behind leaders Manchester United, are Wenger's "wake up call" claims really worth paying attention to? Perhaps it's Arsenal's situation which needs the greater examination and how they've not only been caught, but passed under Wenger's management.

YOU JUST CAN'T WRITE-OFF BECKHAMWell, he's done it again. You write off David Beckham at your peril. He really should be celebrated by the English press this week. The last Brit left in the Champions League. And to think, so many pundits wrote him off, claiming PSG were only signing the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star to sell shirts. The claims he was past it were contrary to the word we were getting from MLS, where coaches were insisting Beckham was in far better shape - and form - than when he first went to AC Milan four years ago and wowed them in Dubai with his fitness before playing on-loan for six months. Now Leonardo, the PSG football director, is talking about extending his deal for next season.

ENGLAND GETTING YOUTH APPOINTMENTS SPOT ONTwo significant appointments last week made by the FA. Peter Taylor was named England coach for this summer's U20 World Championship in Turkey and Arsenal legend Tony Adams appointed as Noel Blake's assistant with the England U19 squad. You don't leave your best young players with rookie coaches. The FA had to convince FC Twente to release Taylor, now 60, from his contract, where he was still working despite Steve McClaren's sacking. Having had two successful stints as England U21 coach, Taylor is a great appointment for the U20s campaign. Meanwhile, you fancy Arsenal's loss is England's gain with Adams, who is back in English football after two stints in charge of Gabala in Azerbaijan. At this stage in his management career, Adams isn't joining the U19s to learn the ropes himself, but to pass on all he can to the nation's best young talent. The FA is going down the right road installing experienced coaches for their youth teams.

CREWE TREATMENT A DISGRACEDaniel Trickett-Smith was on the mark for Liverpool U18s in their victory over West Ham United on the weekend. The 17 year-old midfielder has been likened to Steven Gerrard and was plucked from Crewe Alexandra's academy. Former Alex teammate, Jonathan Sutherland, is with Manchester United and in the England U19 squad. Ahead of these two, of course, were Nick Powell, now a teammate of Sutherland's at United and Aston Villa midfielder Ashley Westwood. Dario Gradi, Crewe's coaching legend, has created a reputation of excellence from three decades of sheer, hard work. It's that reputation which convinced the families of these four graduates, as juniors, to choose Crewe ahead of United, Liverpool, Manchester City and Everton when looking for the best environment for their talented sons. And all this was achieved without outside pen-pushers grading them on sports scientists, funding and facilities. For the work and dedication to youth development Gradi and Crewe have shown for THIRTY YEARS, the hoops they have been forced to jump through to comply to the Elite Player Performance Plan is a disgrace.

CRAZY READING CHOSE RIGHT MOMENT TO AXE MACCrazy as it seems, Reading owner Anton Zingarevich chose the ideal time to give Brian McDermott the shove. It's obvious the board had wrote off their trip to Manchester United and by acting last week gave themselves a full fortnight to find McDermott's replacement. Those mentioned, Nigel Adkins, Roberto di Matteo and Gus Poyet are unlikely to have considered any approach from Reading if McDermott had still be in the job. But with the manager removed (no matter how ridiculous a decision it appears) and next week clear due to international fixtures, Zingarevich and his football director Nicky Hammond can now install their new man in time for their next game on March 30 at Arsenal.

STOKE STOP ANTI-PULIS BANNERSTony Pulis was grateful for a 'positive' home crowd after Stoke City's draw against West Bromwich Albion. But another drab stalemate, with no goals and little invention has the fans restless. There's talk of some being barred from taking their anti-Pulis banners into the Brit. It's tense times for the Potters.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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