KEANE IS VILLA’S HENRY

New Aston Villa loan signing Robbie Keane has been urged by manager Alex McLeish to have the same effect on the side that Thierry Henry has had at Arsenal.

The 34 year old Ireland international joined the Claret and Blues on a short term loan deal from Major League Soccer club the Los Angeles Galaxy.

He will be making his long awaited first appearance for the side from Midlands this weekend against Everton and McLeish wants nothing but goals from the Irish goal machine.

The former Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool player left the English Premier League for a last big pay day in the United States and he has been in decent form, helping the Galaxy to win the MLS Cup.

Thierry Henry, who has returned to former club Arsenal on a short term loan deal from another MLS side the New York Red Bulls turned back the years as he came off the bench in the FA Cup 3rd round match against Leeds United to score the winner and Aston Villa manager Alex McLeish expects Robbie Keane to have the same kind of impact on the side, starting with the weekend fixture against The Toffees at Villa Park.

Robbie Keane has been one of the most prolific goal scorers in the history of the English Premier League during his spells at Leeds United, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur and the man who has scored tons of goals for his national team as well is being looked at as someone who can bail out the misfiring side and also help England international striker Darren Bent find his touch in front of goal once again.

Aston Villa are currently languishing in the bottom half of the English Premier League table and have not been consistent at all and all that needs to be seen is whether the signing of Robbie Keane can lift them up the table.

GOLD HAILS NOLAN SIGNING

West Ham United chairman David Gold has said that Kevin Nolan moving from the Premier league is a major story. Former Newcastle United captain Nolan, 28, rejoined his former boss Sam Allardyce on Thursday after signing a five-year contract in a £5m switch from Tyneside.

And Gold, who expects further high-profile signings this summer, told BBC Sport: “With the appointment of Sam and now the signing of Kevin Nolan we have put a stake in the sand and shown our commitment to the fans.

“It shows we mean business at West Ham United.

CHELSEA BACK IN THE TITLE RACE

Frank Lampard has said that Chelsea are back in the title race after winning against Manchester United.

But Lampard warned his team-mates that Tuesday’s 2-1 victory at Stamford Bridge will mean nothing if they do not now go on a winning run.

Chelsea dented United’s hopes of deposing the Blues as champions and kept their own paper-thin hopes of retaining their crown alive after coming from behind.

The win moved them back into the top four and cut the gap to their opponents to 12 points.

Chelsea also have a game in hand against a United side they meet again at Old Trafford in May. United still have to travel to Liverpool – on Sunday – and to closest challengers Arsenal.

Chelsea also unveiled their New Soccer Shirts this week, with the shirt available on pre-order before its proper launch on May 17th.

ENGLAND SET FOR SALARY CAPS

nglish soccer clubs must be prepared for salary capping, former Football League chairman Brian Mawhinney warned on Monday.

The 60-year-old, who was succeeded after seven years by businessman Greg Clarke on Friday, believes that the current financial model at league clubs outside of the Premier League is not sustainable.

“The business model of professional football in this country doesn’t work, it’s broke and you see that reflected in the administrations and all the rest of it,” Mawhinney said.

Speaking to the BBC, Mawhinney said a salary cap throughout the Football League from Championship (second division) to League Two (fourth division) would halt spiralling debts.

“I have some clubs in the Football League who are paying up to 85 percent of their income in wages. I don’t care how great you are, you may be the best business entrepreneur the country has ever come up with but you cannot run a sustainable business with that sort of model.”

An increasing number of league clubs have fallen into administration in recent years, while many are laden with mounting debts.

HICKS & GILLETT GET DALLAS BACKING

Jerry Jones, the billionaire Texan who owns the Dallas Cowboys, and who has invested 1.2 billion US dollars in the club’s new stadium, insisted to The Daily Telegraph that British soccer fans in clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool should show patience towards American owners and shareholders.

However, Jones said he had never contemplated buying an English Premiership club as his friends have done.

The battle for Old Trafford took a new twist in the last 48 hours as global investment bank Nomura has agreed to advise on a potential acquisition of the club by the Red Knights Group.

Nomura will work closely with the Red Knights, the Manchester United Supporters’ Trust and other potential investors to “coordinate and formulate the proposal to be put to the Glazer family”.

The Nomura team will be led by Guy Dawson and Andrew McNaught, both of whom advised the Board of Manchester United plc when the club was sold to the Glazer family in 2005.

This comes in the wake of more unrest from fans at Manchester United over the Glazer family’s handling of the club.

“No [never intended to buy an English football club]. Not that I want to sound like it is not interesting and good, but I have only one interest, and I wanted it to be the perception of everyone, that all that interests me is the Cowboys. I am very hands on here, I’m even accused of coaching the team at times, but what has happened is that I have invested myself fully in this and I will be in it until I drop.”

“The stadium is a tool, and yes we want world class soccer to come here – the World Cup, the best teams in South America, and the best teams in Europe.”

“But I’m not comfortable being involved, unless I’m there and involved with the grass roots. This is a serious business in terms of all the people that are dependuing on you – especially the fans. And let me say this – I don’t feel like I own the Cowboys. You can own a piece of land, a house or a business. You can’t own the Dallas Cowboys. The fans own Dallas Cowboys. But what you can do, with ownership, is that you can run beyond where you would have gone otherwise. That’s what has transferred itself here.”

BECKENBAUER CALLS FOR RULE CHANGES

German legend Franz Beckenbauer yesterday urged that the rules of soccer to be left as they are, warts and all, because refereeing errors can be part of the sport’s charm.

“Leave football as simple and as clear as it is, together with all its mistakes,” Beckenbauer, a member of the executive committee of FIFA, the sport’s governing body, told the German daily Bild.

The comments followed some radical proposals made on Tuesday by Bayern Munich coach Louis van Gaal.

But Beckenbauer, 64, a World Cup winner for West Germany both as player and coach, said that even with different camera angles, off-side decisions can be so tight that “at the end of the day only a human being has to decide.”

He conceded, however, that another official behind the goal line might help.

FANS PROTEST IN SOUTH AFRICA

South African township residents barricaded roads in Soweto on Wednesday, the latest in a series of protests over living conditions that have hit the country less than 100 days before the soccer World Cup.

Police said about 1,000 people demanding housing demonstrated in the township near Johannesburg, blocking roads with large rocks close to the venue for the opening and final game of the tournament.

“Police went to the scene and they talked to the crowd and they dispersed,” police spokeswoman Katlego Mogale said. “The police are keeping an eye on the situation.”

Poor shanty town residents have burnt tyres and buildings and police have responded with rubber bullets and water cannons in protests over the past year, in scenes reminiscent of the apartheid era.

Protests in Soweto during apartheid made it a symbol of resistance to white minority rule.

A policeman was shot last week and scores of people arrested when protests turned violent in several Johannesburg townships.

The protests have spread. This week, they reached the capital Pretoria, where demonstrators demanding better housing, schools, roads and sewage systems threatened to disrupt the World Cup, which starts in June.

HEDGE FUND IN FOR PORTSMOUTH?

Portsmouth Football Club, the English soccer team that just weeks ago seemed doomed, may have a new life, thanks in part to a New York hedge fund.

The unidentified fund is reportedly behind a £30 million bid for the troubled and debt-ridden team, which went into administration last week. Real-estate millionaire and former reality television show star Rob Lloyd is fronting the potential offer, meeting yesterday with fan groups at the team’s home, Fratton Park.

The hedge fund is joined in the bid by another “major investor,” said to be Old Mutual.

Portsmouth administrator Andrew Andronikou said he has still not heard from Lloyd. That could change today, as Lloyd said he hopes to begin negotiations on the team’s future.

Portsmouth is near-certain to be relegated to the lower Championship league next year. The team is already in last place, and will have nine points—the equivalent of three wins—deducted for going into administration. The team has only five wins this season, and is unlikely to win its sixth today against sixth-place Liverpool Football Club.

United look to Youth

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has said he may not add any more players to his squad this summer.

Ferguson has already signed Mexico’s Javier Hernandez from Guadalajara and defender Chris Smalling from Fulham.

A host of other signings were expected, particularly after chief executive David Gill indicated funds are available to his manager.

“There may be one signing but it’s not easy in the present climate. The market is very difficult,” said Ferguson.

Speaking alongside Gill at a press conference in New York to promote United’s four-game North American tour this summer, Ferguson added: “The structure of our squad is good in terms of ages, the balance, the numbers and there’s a lot of good young players.

Gill added: “The Premier League is bringing in squad limits next year of 25 but there will be unlimited under-21s and other rules and we’ll be taking all that into consideration.”

Ferguson revealed he would not be replacing goalkeeper Ben Foster, instead promoting England Under-21 international Ben Amos, who had been set to be loaned, to the first-team squad alongside Edwin Van der Sar and Tomasz Kuszczak.

NIKE & PSG IN THE DOCK

Sports equipment maker Nike and French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain faced trial in Paris on Monday on charges of hiding payments to attract top players, including Nicolas Anelka and Gabriel Heinze.

Two former presidents of Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), one of France’s richest clubs with famous fans such as President Nicolas Sarkozy, and several agents are also on trial over the alleged attempt to avoid French employment taxes.

Prosecutors say agents, sponsors and club officials partly hid payments for some 20 transfers from 1998 to 2005, including those of Heinze, who joined PSG from Spanish club Valladolid in 2001, and Anelka, who came from Real Madrid in 2000.

Nike is accused of helping to hide payments through sponsorship contracts with players such as Brazil’s Ronaldinho, sometimes with the use of coupons and house purchases in the names of the Directors.

The players themselves are not among the accused. If found guilty, the accused could be asked to pay back millions of euros that were allegedly withheld from tax and social security authorities, as the actual payments were larger than the ones declared.

A lawyer for the group said there was nothing unusual in the deals.

“Do you think the fact that Ronaldinho wears Nike boots is no advantage for Nike? Isn’t it normal to pay for that?” lawyer Olivier Metzner said. “That happens in every country of the world. We did it in Paris, like everywhere else and we only have problems in Paris.”

French magistrates stumbled over the suspect payments some years ago after investigating salary of one player. They are not accusing any of the defendants of personal enrichment.