A review of the news from around the grounds of each Barclays Premier League club.
Tomas Rosicky knows he is still not back to his best. The Czech playmaker has been hindered by frustrating knee and hamstring troubles over the past two seasons, but made his first start in 20 months in the Gunners' 3-2 Champions League success over Standard Liege on Wednesday. Although pleased with his progress, he knows he still has some way to go before he reproduces his top form. He said: "I am not anywhere near my best, and still have plenty of room to improve. I will get better. It is difficult when you are out for such a long time. But when you play, you just have to forget that. I am just enjoying being back. I am fit and itching to play football again."
Plymouth Argyle have signed Australia defender Shane Lowry on a three-month loan from Aston Villa. The highly-rated 20-year-old has yet to appear for the Villa first-team but has featured for the Republic of Ireland Under-21 side and is set to start for Championship basement side Argyle at Newcastle United on Saturday. Lowry recently opted to pursue his international career with Australia and Argyle manager Paul Sturrock is delighted to recruit a player with such massive potential. Sturrock said: "Defensively, we are very short and we need to make sure we have players coming in. He has got real potential and he wants to do well. He has played with Alan Judge and Cillian Sheridan in the Republic of Ireland Under-21 side, and they have waxed lyrical about him. Our scouts have also given us some very good reports, so he is a welcome addition." Meanwhile Aston Villa's FA Premier Academy League match against Norwich City at Bodymoor Heath Training Ground will now have a noon kick-off on Saturday.
Manager Alex McLeish has hailed the contribution David Sullivan and Karren Brady have made during almost 17 years at St Andrew's and believes exciting times lie ahead under the club's prospective new owners. PLC chairman Sullivan and chief executive Brady have announced they will leave the West Midlands outfit if Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung completes his takeover. McLeish said: "They've done a great job at Birmingham over the years, they dragged the club up from pretty desperate times. The stadium, the whole infrastructure, they built it up to what it is today. David (Sullivan) has admitted he can't take it to the next level, if there is a next level, but I'd like to think I've got the ambition to see a next level here at this club. David has decided to opt out, I think he goes with a lot of credit, massive credit, and Karren and whoever else is leaving."
Newcastle United have signed Georgia international defender Zurab Khizanishvili on a three-month loan deal. The 27-year-old Blackburn player will go straight into the squad for Saturday's Championship match with Plymouth at St James' Park. Tbilisi-born Khizanishvili, who has 62 senior international caps to his name, began his career with Dinamo Tbilisi, and after spells with city rivals FC Tbilisi and then Lokomotiv Tbilisi, made his way to Scotland and Dundee, and then Rangers. He joined Blackburn in a £500,000 move during the summer of 2006 after spending a successful season on loan at Ewood Park. However, he has found himself surplus to requirements at Rovers during the current campaign and has made just one senior appearance, in a 3-1 Carling Cup second-round victory at Gillingham.
Gary Megson has confirmed Danny Shittu rejected a loan move to Sheffield United. The Nigeria international is yet to make a first-team appearance this season and Bolton are willing to loan him out. The Blades made enquiries for Shittu, but the former Watford man has rejected their overtures. Megson said: "I spoke to Sam Ellis [United assistant manager] a few times and it was put to Danny he could go there if he wanted for a month's football and could have played six games. I felt it would have been good for everybody, but Danny didn't want to which is his prerogative so he has not gone."
Manager Owen Coyle rates Sunderland counterpart Steve Bruce as a future England manager and reckons he could even succeed Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. Bruce's summer appointment at the Stadium of Light, and the significant funds he has since spent, have encouraged hopes on Wearside that Sunderland can make significant progress this season. They flirted with relegation last term but Coyle, whose side host Sunderland at Turf Moor on Saturday lunchtime, believes big-spending Bruce will make the Black Cats a force in the Barclays Premier League. Coyle said: "Steve Bruce is becoming a better manager year after year. He had to cope with financial restraints during his time at Birmingham and Wigan, but at Sunderland he's had the backing to spend some cash and it looks as if he's invested it very wisely. He's signed some top players and there is no doubt that Sunderland, under his guidance, will be onwards and upwards. On top of that, there is always a clamour for good English managers. As he continues on that road, then further down the line Steve would be a genuine contender to be an England manager. The Manchester United job would probably be a dream come true for him and he's certainly going along the right steps, isn't he? Steve is not only a fantastic manager, he's a top man as well and is the sort of person you like to see do well."
Chelsea have named Ron Gourlay as their new chief executive. The 46-year-old replaces Peter Kenyon, who announced on Wednesday he would be stepping down from the position at the end of October. Gourlay, who was previously the chief operating officer at the London club, said: "It is a huge honour to be offered the chance to lead Chelsea. We have a fantastic team both on and off the field and those teams can move us on to even greater success in the future. To be responsible for that is a fantastic challenge and I will be giving it my total commitment, drive and energy. All successful clubs strike the balance between the footballing and commercial sides and my role is to ensure this happens as it is a critical part of our strategy moving forward." Gourlay has been at Chelsea for five years in a variety of roles. He has more than 25 years of experience in football and past senior jobs include working at Manchester United and Umbro.
Phil Neville's scan has revealed that his injury does not require immediate surgery. The player's damaged knee was assessed by a specialist on Wednesday and the early diagnosis is reasonably encouraging - but the skipper is still set to be sidelined until Christmas. Everton's Head Physiotherapist, Mick Rathbone said: "As we suspected, the scan revealed that Phil has torn his posterior cruciate ligament at the back of his knee. There will be a further assessment in three weeks when the swelling has gone completely but the surgeon's feeling is that it won't require surgery." However, the Blues skipper is still looking at a lengthy spell on the sidelines. There is no quick cure for the injury he has sustained. "Although it could have been worse, we are still looking at a Christmas/New Year return for Phil," concluded Rathbone. Neville was stretchered from the field at Fulham at the weekend following a challenge from Dickson Etuhu. Meanwhile, striker James Vaughan has joined Derby County on loan until January.
Defender Brede Hangeland has indicated he is ready to hold talks over a new contract at Craven Cottage. The Norway international has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Barclays Premier League since his move to Fulham in January 2008 from FC Copehagen. A host of clubs were linked with Hangeland during the summer transfer window, but the London outfit managed to keep hold of the 28-year-old. Cottagers manager Roy Hodgson has admitted he is keen to tie down the central defender to a new long-term deal and Hangeland is ready to sit down and discuss terms. Hangeland said: "We are hopeful we can sit down and work something out, and I am certainly very keen on that."
Striker Caleb Folan has joined Middlesbrough on a three-month loan from Hull City with a view to a permanent move. The Republic of Ireland forward's loan spell begins on Saturday meaning Folan will be available for the crucial match against leaders West Bromwich Albion at the Riverside which could see Boro go top of the Championship. The 26-year-old became Hull's first £1m player when he joined from Wigan Athletic in August 2007 and played a role in the Tigers' rise to the Barclays Premier League, scoring nine league goals. However, he has yet to score this season and joins fellow Republic international Sean St Ledger after the defender arrived from Preston North End.
Fernando Torres is sure the English top flight is still the world's greatest league - and is determined to help Liverpool become its champion once again. The Reds travel to West Ham in the Barclays Premier League on Saturday as their quest continues to bring home the trophy that has eluded them for almost 20 years. The division has changed beyond recognition since the last time Liverpool were crowned champions in 1990, with the influx of superstar overseas players like Spanish striker Torres placing it in the eyes of many above any other leagues across the globe. Torres said: "As a competition it is the best one. When you are talking about organisation, respect, and having all the stadiums full every weekend, it is really nice to see that. In Spain they have some of the better players in the world, but as a competition, it is not as big as the Premier League. I was playing in Spain, and I can tell you honestly, the Premier League is a much better competition."
Manchester City striker Emmanuel Adebayor will miss this weekend's Manchester derby after the Football Association confirmed a three-match ban for the striker for stamping on Robin van Persie. The suspension will begin immediately, ruling him out of City's visit to Old Trafford on Sunday. Adebayor had admitted the charge and was dealt with under the FA's fast-track disciplinary system. A separate charge of improper conduct, brought after the former Arsenal player ran the length of the pitch to taunt Gunners fans with a goal celebration, will be considered at a later date. The FA said in a statement: "A regulatory commission today considered the charge of violent conduct issued against Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor under the fast-track disciplinary procedure following an incident with Robin van Persie during their fixture against Arsenal on the 12th September. Taking into consideration Mr Adebayor's acceptance of the charge of violent conduct the regulatory commission have ordered that he serve a three-match suspension from all football, commencing Thursday 17th September. A separate charge of improper conduct will be considered at a later date." City may contest the improper conduct charge - they have until 30th September to respond to that allegation.
Defender Jonny Evans is relishing the chance to put one over Manchester City on Sunday at Old Trafford. City's new-look side have started the season with a bang, chalking up four successive victories in the Barclays Premier League. Manager Mark Hughes, the former United striker, invested heavily in the summer, thanks to huge financial backing from the Abu Dhabi United Group. City are determined to break into the elite and it has become one of the most talked about derbies in recent years. United for their part go into the match on the back of a fine victory against Besiktas in Istanbul in the Champions League and Evans is already looking forward to the next challenge. He said: "We all know about the big rivalry between United and City and it's always nice to get the upper hand on them. They have put themselves up there now. It's a long season but fair play to them because they've got off to a good start."
Paul Hart says he has the full support of new Portsmouth owner Sulaiman Al Fahim. Pressure is mounting on the Pompey manager after a dismal start to the season which has seen the club go pointless through their opening five fixtures. After meeting with Al Fahim, Hart said: "He said that I'm the manager and that's how it is going to be for the foreseeable future. He hopes that before too long he will be able to put in the sort of funds that will enable us to take a step forward. After five defeats I think anybody would start to feel the pressure, even if it doesn't come from the people immediately surrounding me. No manager wants that sort of record, it's the worst start for Portsmouth in so long, but no other manager has faced the sort of situation I did in the Premiership. We returned with 14 players and there wasn't a bean to spend, nobody has faced that. Still, without any money, we have been able to bring in the calibre of player we did. I'm very proud of the way the club worked, people behind the scenes, my staff identifying players and bringing them in. The calibre of player that has been brought in has been unbelievable. You could argue that our season started last week."
Stoke City have joined forces with Greater Manchester Police to take positive steps in fostering a better relationship between the club's supporters and the authority over the coming season. City's Chief Executive Tony Scholes held discussions with Police officials and members of the Football Supporters Federation in the countdown to their first visit to the Greater Manchester area this season for the Barclays Premier League match against Bolton Wanderers at the Reebok Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Potters are encouraged that the Police have so far opted not to alter the kick-off times of their matches in the area this season, a measure that was implemented a number of times last season on the grounds of public safety. "We have had constructive dialogue with Greater Manchester Police as a result of the well-documented incidents that took place last season and are certainly encouraged by the outcome of those discussions," said Scholes. "There was a strong commitment from both sides to move forward and not dwell on the past. Therefore, the fact that Greater Manchester Police have chosen not to alter the kick-off times is a very positive move in that respect."
Steve Bruce knows exactly what to expect at Burnley on Saturday after serving up the same for the big boys during his time at Wigan. The Black Cats head for Turf Moor determined not to follow in the footsteps of Manchester United and Everton, who have left empty-handed already this season. That is a remarkable achievement for Owen Coyle's men, who emerged from the Championship as play-off final winners at the end of last season and, like Hull 12 months earlier, have made a promising start to life in the top flight. Bruce said: "They have made a wonderful start to it - to have the scalps of Manchester United and Everton already is quite an unbelievable achievement. It's a bit similar to what I had at Wigan - at the end of the day they are a decent team. They might not have the most fantastic surroundings but Turf Moor has never changed and it has always been difficult to get a result there, always, with the support they have got. I think a third of the town goes to support the club, which is incredible. It will be difficult and we will have to overcome that. That sometimes can be to their advantage because it's similar to Wigan. People don't enjoy going there, it's as simple as that - and I don't mean that disrespectfully either."
Harry Redknapp believes Wilson Palacios has developed into a "vital player" for Tottenham Hotspur. The powerful Honduran midfielder has been a key figure in Spurs' revival under Redknapp following his £12m move from Wigan Athletic in January. Spurs were languishing in 15th when Palacios arrived at White Hart Lane - but they went on to finish eighth and started this campaign with four straight victories. Redknapp said: "He's a vital player for us. He gets after the ball, he works, he's strong. His attitude as well, the way he trains ever day. He might give the ball away occasionally but he works hard to get it back and he's a big factor in our improvement. He puts a shift in when he doesn't have the ball. That attitude has rubbed off on everyone."
West Ham United
Calum Davenport has offered "heartfelt thanks" to well-wishers as he continues to recover in hospital. The West Ham defender is currently under medical supervision after being stabbed at his family home on 22nd August. The 26-year-old, whose career was believed to be on the line in the wake of the incident, continues to require treatment for his injuries but is "feeling positive". Hammers officials have been monitoring his situation closely ever since the attack, while Davenport has also sought to thank those who have sent their support from afar. He said: "I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has sent messages of support to me and my family over the last few weeks. It has been a tough time and the support has been very much appreciated. At the moment I am still in hospital and have quite a long way to go on the road to recovery but I am feeling positive. Thanks to the club, my team-mates and fans, to the club doctors and the amazing staff at Bedford Hospital who have looked after me so well. I would also like to thank anyone who has ever donated blood, as you probably saved my life. I would like to encourage everyone to give blood."
Manager Roberto Martinez will give Jurgen Macho and Modeste M'Bami another run-out in the reserves before deciding whether to sign the duo. Austrian goalkeeper Macho and Cameroon midfielder M'Bami are currently training with the Latics in the hope of earning contracts at the DW Stadium. Former Sunderland and Chelsea shot-stopper Macho is available on a free transfer after leaving AEK Athens and started the second string's 4-3 defeat by Manchester City earlier this week. M'Bami, who trained with Portsmouth and Wolves in the summer, also played in that match, but Martinez is yet to make a decision on the two players. The Latics' reserves are scheduled to play their Blackburn counterparts next week when Martinez will again assess the merits of Macho and M'Bami. Martinez said: "At the moment, we'll assess it further down the line. I'm not going to make any decisions yet, I think it's too early and I will probably take advantage of the second game they can play in the reserves."
Young defender Danny Batth is moving to League One side Colchester United on a month's emergency loan. Batth, who turns 19 on Monday, was one of seven Academy scholars to sign professional terms at the end of last season. The 6ft 3in defender, who has impressed in Wolves' Barclays Premier Reserve League fixtures so far, now has the chance to pick up some first team experience to aid his development.