Barnsley charged in relation to abuse of Republic of Ireland international James McClean

James McClean Stoke

Barnsley have been charged by the FA following an investigation into allegations of sectarian abuse towards Stoke midfielder James McClean.

The FA says Barnsley failed to stop supporters from using “abusive and/or insulting words which included a reference, whether express or implied, to nationality and/or religion and/or beliefs” in the match on November 9, 2019.

Barnsley, who have until January 10 to respond, issued a statement that said: “Barnsley Football Club has a zero tolerance policy on any form of discrimination.

“As a club, we are saddened to have had this charge brought against us. Since the incident was first reported, as a club, we have been thoroughly investigating and we will continue to do so.

“Anybody found to be involved in any form of abusive behaviour when representing Barnsley Football Club will be banned from attending matches.

“We will await and respect the outcome of the FA’s charge against us before communicating further on this matter.”

McClean was also subject to sectarian chants during Stoke’s 5-2 win over Huddersfield on New Year’s Day, forcing the match to be temporarily halted.

There was a tannoy announcement in the second half of the game at the John Smith’s Stadium saying “racist chanting is affecting the game and will not be tolerated”.

However, it is understood the abuse Huddersfield are investigating is of a sectarian nature.


Lionel Messi wins record sixth Balon d’Or

– By James Clancy

Lionel Messi has won a record sixth Ballon d’Or crown at a ceremony in Paris.

The Barcelona star moved ahead of great rival Cristiano Ronaldo to take outright ownership of the record, seeing off Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk and Juventus’ Ronaldo.

The Argentinian struck 54 goals for club and country in the 2018-19 season.

The 32-year-old held off the challenge of Holland centre-back Van Dijk, whose performances helped Liverpool to the Champions League title.

Van Dijk, the winner of UEFA’s Men’s Player of the Year, could have been the first defender to lift the Ballon d’Or since Italy’s Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, but he was left to settle for second place as Messi added another honour to the Best FIFA Men’s award he received in September.

And he fired a warning to his rivals that he only intends to keep on breaking records, and has no plans to start easing off now that he is in his early 30s.

“I’m going to enjoy this with my family,” he said. “Because those times when it’s possible to do it do not last long.

“Tomorrow we will have to focus again on other objectives.

“I am already focused on the future. This gives me great pride, it gives me a lot of strength to continue my work.”

Van Dijk still finished ahead of five-time winner Ronaldo, with his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane fourth.

“It was an amazing year, but there’s a couple of players like that who are a bit unnatural,” said Van Dijk, of Messi and Ronaldo.

“So you need to respect greatness as well.

“I was close, but there was just someone a little bit better.

“I’m very proud of what I achieved last year with Liverpool and Holland, and hopefully we can do that again this year. But that will be tough with those guys around here still.”

Van Dijk admitted he had never expected to be in the running for the prestigious title.

“I never thought that I would be up for a Ballon d’Or until I was actually nominated,” said Van Dijk.

“It shows a lot about how my career has been. My career has been different from the winner here, I came late, but I never gave up on my dreams.

“I had to work hard every step of the way, so to be here makes me very proud. And I want to work hard and be here again next year.”

Juventus defender Matthijs De Ligt claimed the 2019 Kopa Trophy for the young player award.

FA Cup third round draw pits Liverpool against Everton

– By James Clancy

Liverpool will face Everton in the FA Cup third round, while holders Arsenal will travel to Nottingham Forest.

Premier League leaders Manchester City have a home tie against Burnley, Manchester United host Derby and Chelsea are away at Norwich.

Seventh-tier Hereford, the lowest-ranked side left, will face Leicester if they overcome Fleetwood at the second attempt.

Three non-league sides remain but all are involved in replays.

National League side AFC Fylde will head to Premier League Bournemouth if they see off Wigan in a replay. Woking, who also play in the fifth tier, know victory over Peterborough in their replay will earn them a trip to Championship side Aston Villa.

In the pick of the other ties, AFC Wimbledon will travel to Wembley to take on Tottenham, Middlesbrough face Sunderland and Brighton & Hove Albion will host Crystal Palace – the latter one of three all-Premier League contests.

The Merseyside derby gives Liverpool the chance to correct one of cup football’s more unusual statistics – that the Reds have never beaten Everton in an FA Cup tie at Anfield.

In fact, the last time the Toffees lost at that ground in either the FA Cup or League Cup was in 1892, when Anfield was their home stadium and they were beaten by Burnley.

Ties will take place on the weekend of 6-7 January 2018.

The third-round draw in full

Ipswich Town v Sheffield United

Watford v Bristol City

Birmingham City v Burton Albion

Liverpool v Everton

Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace

Aston Villa v Peterborough United

Bournemouth v Wigan

Coventry City v Stoke City

Newport County v Leeds United

Bolton Wanderers v Huddersfield Town

Yeovil Town v Bradford City

Nottingham Forest v Arsenal

Brentford v Notts County

Queens Park Rangers v MK Dons

Manchester United v Derby County

Exeter City v West Bromwich Albion

Doncaster Rovers v Rochdale

Tottenham Hotspur v AFC Wimbledon

Middlesbrough v Sunderland

Fleetwood v Leicester City

Blackburn Rovers v Hull City

Cardiff City v Mansfield Town

Manchester City v Burnley

Shrewsbury Town v West Ham United

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Swansea City

Stevenage v Reading

Newcastle United v Luton Town

Millwall v Barnsley

Fulham v Southampton

Wycombe Wanderers v Preston North End

Norwich City v Chelsea

Carlisle United v Sheffield Wednesday





Solskjaer reflects on Manchester United being six points above Premier League relegation zone

– By James Clancy

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says he is not thinking about the table despite sitting just six points clear of the relegation zone.

After more dropped points ninth-placed Manchester United are closer to the bottom three than they are to the Champions League places.

United are eight points adrift of the battle for a European finish but the Norwegian claims there are bigger things to worry about.

Solskjaer said: “I would have sat here talking about being fifth if we’d got the one extra goal. So the league table is not the biggest concern.

“It’s so tight. I have to make sure we get performances and results.

“As a club we don’t like to be in this position but that’s the reality. Wednesday we have a big game against Tottenham, Saturday against Manchester City, these boys are looking forward to every game.”

This is now United’s worst start to a season for more than 30 years.

And they have not won in three games since ex-United target Mauricio Pochettino was shown the door by Spurs.

Solskjaer added: “What I can say is we’ve had the lead in so many games and haven’t been able to win them, six or seven times and we should be better at turning them into wins.”

United have won only six of 22 matches since Solskjaer was given the job on a permanent basis back in the spring.

His team have 18 points from 14 games so far – and his predecessor Jose Mourinho was sacked a year ago having got 27 from 18.

Ironically the Special One’s resurgent Tottenham and then Manchester City are United’s next two opponents in the week ahead.

The United boss added: “I think there’s loads of evidence that they are closer to winning than losing, to tip in our favour we have to work on lots of different things.

“We’re a young team, I don’t want to use that as an excuse, we’re Manchester United and want to get a run and that’s what these boys need.

“We just have to make sure we do everything right now because it’s a quick turnaround.”

Solskjaer left all his starters behind when a young squad travelled to Kazakhstan last week and the plan did not work out.

United were lacklustre in the opening 45 minutes and were fortunate to go in on level terms thanks to a Tom Heaton own goal.

He admitted: “The boys stayed here so we should have come out of the traps quicker. The first half wasn’t good enough.”