“I think this country likes me,” joked the 24-year-old. “For me, this golf course is pretty much the same as the one where I won in Shenzhen. “I like this type of golf course with water and the target golf. I enjoy being in China and I’m going to try my best the next few days to do the same things I did in April.” Levy is a close friend of both Wattel – whose flawless 66 was achieved despite cracking the face of his driver during the round – and Ryder Cup star Victor Dubuisson, who returned a two-under-par 70 and is helping inspire the new generation of French players. “No French player has won a major or something like that, but I think we have a good mix between the older generation and young generation,” Levy added. “Victor played the Ryder Cup this year and I think it showed all the French players it’s possible to play a big event like that and be in position to be in the Ryder Cup in France in 2018. “For my part I’m thinking only about that, to be in France in 2018 at Le Golf National, it’s an amazing place. I think we will have, I hope, two or three players on the Ryder Cup in 2018. “We have a good generation. Every year some French players win and new players come on the European Tour.” Graeme McDowell, who won the French Open at Le Golf National earlier this season, was two shots behind Levy after shaking off jet-lag to card a 67 in the first event of the Tour’s Final Series. “I got here Tuesday morning and haven’t really been feeling my best the last couple of days,” said McDowell, who was knocked out in the group stage in the defence of his Volvo World Match Play Championship a fortnight ago. Press Association “It’s the first sort of long trip of the year for me and the body took a little bit of time to catch up. Thankfully I felt much, much better this morning and the energy level has felt good. “The golf course is fairly soft due to the rain. It’s playing very long (7,600 yards), but the greens are very receptive and you can attack a few pins. “I’ve had a lot of yardage in my hand most of the day out there. We counted up, I think I had seven iron shots from outside of 200 yards on this golf course. Certainly for a guy like me who doesn’t hit it maybe as far as some of the other guys, I have to be precise with my iron play and putt well, and I putted well today. That was one of the keys.” McDowell’s Ryder Cup team-mates Thomas Bjorn and Jamie Donaldson were among a six-strong group on four under par which also featured England’s Oliver Wilson, who won his first European Tour event – the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – on his 228th appearance at the start of October. Wilson started on the back nine and covered it in 32 before picking up another shot on the third, the 34-year-old dropping his only shot of the day on the ninth when his approach plugged in a greenside bunker. Justin Rose signed for a level-par 72 after recovering from being four over par after his first four holes, the world number six having run up a triple-bogey eight on the par-five 13th. But Ian Poulter struggled to a two-over-par 74 which contained five bogeys and three birdies and left the world number 43 joint 62nd in the 78-strong field. France’s Alexander Levy made the ideal start to his bid for a third European Tour title of the season – and second in China – in the BMW Masters on Thursday. Levy, who won the Volvo China Open in April and the rain-shortened Portugal Masters three weeks ago, carded a flawless opening 65 at a damp Lake Malaren to finish seven under par, one shot ahead of compatriot Romain Wattel, Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo. Starting from the 10th, Levy birdied his first four holes and picked up another shot at the par-three 17th to reach the turn in 31, before recording further birdies at the second and ninth.
Lambert admitted the fixture list had not been kind and it has given his side a mental battering. “The difference against the top five is that it’s relentless. Physically and mentally, it’s hard against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, you don’t have a rest in there,” he said. “The mental toughness for that is excruciating at times. If you are not getting results it’s hard. “Teams will play to their strengths but we have to be more creative, there are players to do it.” Lambert is without Fabian Delph (shoulder) and Alan Hutton (ankle) while Philippe Senderos (thigh) is also likely to miss out. There could be a recall for Charles N’Zogbia, as Villa search for a goal after 531 barren minutes. “Charles has talent to burn,” Lambert said. “He has that in his make-up and we have to find a role where he can create things. He really is a talent. “He can play wide but he had that spell at Wigan where he played in behind the strikers.” Mauricio Pochettino believes there is more emphasis on him to play Harry Kane because the striker is a young English prospect – but the Tottenham head coach will not bow to supporter pressure. Kane, 21, has scored eight goals for Spurs so far this season but has yet to score in, or start, a Barclays Premier League game under Pochettino. The Tottenham academy product has hit his goals in the Europa League and Capital One Cup but is now champing at the bit to line up against Villa. With the more experienced duo of Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor having scored just two league goals between them it is understandable that Spurs fans want to see their local boy get a chance. But Pochettino, who said on Friday that he is considering starting Kane at Villa Park, is not prepared to say for sure that the England Under-21 striker is going to have a run of league games. “Always,” Pochettino replied when asked if there was more pressure on him to play Kane because of his nationality. “Today if we were in Argentina and he was Argetinian player and playing with two foreign strikers, it would always be a sensitive situation. “He is English, he is young and from the Tottenham academy so it is normal. We understand he is a special player for Tottenham and for our supporters. “I understand because he is an English player. He scored the last game against Brighton and Asteras and I understand he is a special player for our supporters. “My decision is always about my analysis on the training and after to give the balance to the team and our performance. Not only focus on different situations … but I understand and I know that this is a special player for our supporters.” Nabil Bentaleb is the only other injury absentee for the trip to face struggling Villa, with Aaron Lennon in contention despite only playing the opening 45 minutes against Brighton following a hamstring problem. The former Southampton boss has seen his team win just once in their last seven league games, and they lost 2-1 at home to Newcastle last Sunday. Lambert has not had a win to savour since signing a new four-year contract in September but he insisted the criticism does not worry him. “If you look at teams like Tottenham and Liverpool who spend a bit of money the pressure probably intensifies because they were in the top six last year,” Lambert said. “We’ve played nine games and this will be our sixth game against last year’s top six. “You have to come through it. It goes from one manager to the next. If you look at which manager is under pressure it is one guy one week, the next the next and another the following week. Everyone gets a hit at it. “It’s just the way football works – you just have to turn it around. It would be more nail-biting if we had five games to go but we’re 10 games into the season. You’ve got to be able to handle it, it’s two big clubs going head to head. “I have my own way of dealing with things.” Villa lost to Everton, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City before they went down 2-0 at QPR on Monday. Paul Lambert has dismissed the heat on him ahead of Aston Villa’s tussle with Tottenham. The Villa manager is preparing to run the home gauntlet on Sunday after his side lost their last five games without scoring. Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is also under pressure from fans because of a stuttering campaign that sees his side mid-table in the Barclays Premier League. Press Association
Press Association Clarcam made the most of a serious mistake from hot favourite Vautour to grab Grade One glory in the Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown. Vautour made a shuddering error that left him with his nose on the turf before being picked up by Townend, and Bryan Cooper sensibly took the initiative, sensing an upset was on the cards. Clarcam quickly opened up a break on the chasing pack and was clear rounding the home turn before winging the final fence to seal his wide-margin victory. Vautour, unable to recover from his mishap, dead-heated for second with Ted Veale. RaceBets cut Clarcam to 14-1 from 25-1 for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham in March. Winning trainer Gordon Elliott said: “It’s great for Bryan as this is the horse he broke his leg on at Cheltenham. I know Vautour made mistakes but my horse didn’t just win a length or two – he destroyed them. “We’ll look at coming back here for the (Irish) Arkle and see what happens then.” Elliott went on to complete a double as 13-2 shot Space Cadet landed the bumper under Jamie Codd. Fiscal Focus caused a major upset in the Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle as he put the odds-on Kalkir in his place at odds of 33-1. Kalkir was unsurprisingly a warm order as the 4-7 favourite for the Grade Two, having made a smooth start to his jumping career in a Grade Three at Fairyhouse last month, propelling him towards the top of the Triumph Hurdle market. Vautour was a stunning winner of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last season’s Cheltenham Festival and looked every inch a top-class chasing prospect when comfortably seeing off Clarcam on his debut over fences at Navan last month, so it was no surprise to see him sent off the 1-4 favourite to confirm his superiority. Clarcam (8-1), who had since opened his own chasing account, took the field along down the back straight, with Vautour shadowing him in the hands of Paul Townend – until the pivotal moment came five fences from home. The Mullins runner moved well for much of the journey, but Fiscal Focus was travelling even better as he led rounding the home turn under Mikey Fogarty and he skipped over the last to win by two lengths, with Kalkir unable to make an impression. The winner was making his jumping bow for Des McDonogh, having previously been trained by Jim Bolger on the Flat. McDonogh’s legendary hurdler Monksfield was actually beaten in the same race early in his brilliant career and the trainer hopes his latest winner could earn himself a trip to the Cheltenham Festival. The handler said: “It’s been a long time since Monksfield ran in this race. He probably had too much Christmas pudding and didn’t run too well. “I’ve not been to Cheltenham since 1987 and said I wouldn’t go back unless I had a runner. I’ll have to sit down and talk with Jim (Bolger) before we decide what to do. I’ve known Jim for many, many years. He’s a great friend and he’s been very good to me. “I haven’t seen the likes of Monksfield around us for a long time. I’d love to go back to Cheltenham. He jumped great for his first run over hurdles and has beaten one of the favourites for the Triumph Hurdle. I’m still in a bit of shock! “Good horses are easy to train and he’s come from a very good academy. He loves soft ground. He was prepared so well for me to take over and they did get Annie Power out of there, so they know how to do it. We’ve a lovely horse (Theophilus) tomorrow, too.” Alvisio Ville made a stunning Irish debut for the Mullins team in the Bewleys Hotel Maiden Hurdle. Third on his only previous start in a French bumper, the JP McManus-owned four-year-old was sent off a heavily supported 1-2 favourite for the opening contest of the four-day Christmas Festival. Never too far off the pace in the hands of Paul Townend, Alvisio Ville was still hard on the bridle rounding the home turn, while the majority of his rivals toiled. Townend gave his mount his head on the run to the final flight and he soon asserted, pinging the last to seal a most impressive five-and-a-half-length success. With the champion trainer at Kempton, his son Patrick said: “He showed there what he’s showing at home. He’s 17.2 hands and has a huge stride. As they were going faster he jumped better and we think he’s very, very good.” RaceBets quote Alvisio Ville at 14-1 for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, having gone 25-1 immediately after the race.
The 34-year-old, who is adored by many in football and loathed by some, hopes to earn an extension to his contract which expires at the end of the current campaign. Terry scored the opening goal in a man-of-the-match display in Chelsea’s Capital One Cup final victory over Tottenham on Sunday. John Terry is determined to enjoy a successful conclusion to his Chelsea career by continuing to confound his critics. It was the first trophy of Jose Mourinho’s second spell as Blues boss, with Terry still a central figure 10 years after the Portuguese’s first Stamford Bridge silverware in the same competition. “I am fighting for myself and my family, and to prove people wrong,” Terry said. “It doesn’t come much bigger than that. I want to give it everything. “I don’t know how long I have left. Hopefully I have a few years left but if this is my last year then I hope it will go out on a bang. “I have my little target to play next year but beyond that, two or three years (more), I don’t know.” Asked if he would play for another club, Terry added: “No, and I also think there’s a right time to go as well. “Certainly I am feeling great at the minute and it would be the wrong time to go. “But there does come a point where it would be the right time to go, to say it’s time to move on and people will remember you that way.” It seems unthinkable that Chelsea will determine that time to be at the end of this season, by which time the Blues skipper may have led them to a first Premier League title in five years. Chelsea policy dictates that players over the age of 30 are granted 12-month deals. Terry signed his current deal 48 hours after the end of last season – Mourinho’s first back at Stamford Bridge – and could be made to wait until the end of the current campaign before a new deal is negotiated. “The uncertainty has helped me positively, not having four or five years (under contract) as you get older. “The roles have reversed and now the power is in the club’s hands. That has inspired me.” Terry admitted his emotions were stirred on hearing the national anthem at Wembley, but he has no plans to reconsider his retirement from England duty. He retired from international football in 2012 after being banned for four matches by the Football Association, despite being cleared at Westminster Magistrates Court of making a racist insult to then QPR defender Anton Ferdinand, brother of his long-time England central defensive partner Rio. He is still considered by many to be England’s leading defender, but has no intention of making himself available to Roy Hodgson. “I have missed it, playing in these big stadiums and in these competitions and I’m delighted to get back to Wembley,” Terry said. “They started playing the national anthem before the game and I was going then.” Asked if he was considering an England return, Terry, who earned 78 caps, added: “No. It’s the simple answer, I don’t want to go into it right now. “Being back at Wembley, the atmosphere, the stadium, it’s one of the best I have played in, but it’s never crossed my mind. “I have drawn a line under it and the England squad can move on now.” His goal was his first in a major final and he is targeting further success this season, with Chelsea in possession of a five-point Premier League lead over second-placed Manchester City, who lost at Liverpool on Sunday. Chelsea, who have a game in-hand, play at West Ham on Wednesday. “It was important to get our first trophy together,” Terry added. “I spoke in the week about this being a springboard, like it did when the manager came in in 2004-05. It had that effect then and hopefully it does now. “We are delighted to see City lose points, but we go again on Wednesday and it’s another tough one. It’s a derby but we want the three points.” Press Association
Press Association Harry Redknapp has claimed “people with their own agendas” had a hand in his resignation as QPR manager, describing the situation as “a bit of a soap opera”. He said: “I always thought I had everyone pulling with me and suddenly I felt some were and some weren’t. I didn’t know who was on my side at the end and who wasn’t. “Behind the scenes, I always thought there were one or two people with their own agendas. “There was always talk about Tim Sherwood coming in. It was like a bit of a soap opera. “QPR was in the paper every day. I’ve been at lots of other clubs, big clubs as well, where you didn’t get that. That got on my nerves. That was the big problem for me. “As soon as we lost a few games, it would begin. I always thought there was someone mischievous causing it. I’d never had that before at any club I’d been at. “I didn’t see the teams below us getting the same sort of headlines every other week. It wore me down a little bit.” Redknapp left the team second from bottom of the table and they are now two points from safety under the leadership of Chris Ramsey. However, Redknapp, who also claimed he did not fall out with chairman Tony Fernandes because of the club’s lack of business in the January transfer window, added: “I felt I’d have kept them up.” The 68-year-old blamed knee problems for his decision to leave the Barclays Premier League strugglers in February. However, Redknapp told BBC Sport’s Football Focus there was more to his decision than health problems. Redknapp was replaced at the helm by Ramsey – who has guided the club to four points from their last two games to keep alive their hopes of survival. But, responding to Redknapp’s remarks, he believes the day-to-day running of any football club can be compared to a work of fiction. Ramsey said: “Football is a soap opera. Any club you go to, League One or League Two clubs, it is going to be a soap opera. It just depends how it is going to play out. “I’m not sure if things have settled down now, it is probably a different script.” Fernandes has been vocal on Twitter ever since he took over at QPR, offering both positive and negatives takes on the goings on at Loftus Road. Ramsey believes the Malaysian has curbed the number of QPR-related Tweets he has been posting recently, taking some of his personal feelings out of the public realm “I’m not on it but it seems like he has been on it less,” he said of Fernandes on Twitter. “I think Twitter is a thing people do when they are in emotional states. I’ve got family memebers that are on it. “It doesn’t always represent what people feel at the time. It is sometimes a knee-jerk reaction as to what has gone on. Once it is out there, it is out there.”
Number eight Heaslip will captain Ireland in their opening World Cup warm-up clash against Wales at the Millennium Stadium. The Leinster loose-forward will win his 73rd cap, moving past his former Test team-mate Wallace’s mark, as head coach Joe Schmidt seeks a strong start to four World Cup preparation fixtures. Heaslip hailed former Munster flanker Wallace as one of his finest back-row opponents and team-mates. “In a weird way I was a little bit gutted to be honest,” said Heaslip of learning he would move past Wallace’s record. “I was a little bit sad, because I hold Wally with particularly high regard, as a player and as a bloke, but as a back-row guy as well. “I was a bit sad to be honest, that I passed one of my idols, and especially in the last World Cup he was one of the guys that I unfortunately saw him play his last international. Yeah, I was pretty sad to be honest. “It’s cool obviously, on one side, but I think Wally was probably one of the best, if not the best, back-row player I’ve ever played with or against, and probably the best who played for Ireland.” Wallace won 72 Ireland caps between 2001 and 2011, and featured on the 2001 and 2009 British and Irish Lions tours. Heaslip branded Wallace all but the complete back-row forward ahead of facing Wales on Saturday. “He was just awesome, absolutely – ball carrying, defence, work-rate, knowledge, the full package really,” said Heaslip. “Bar his line-out ability. Maybe I can take him on that! But otherwise it was a bit bitter sweet hearing that, to be honest.” Jamie Heaslip admits he will be “gutted” to eclipse David Wallace’s record as Ireland’s most-capped back-row forward in Cardiff on Saturday. Press Association
While in Naples the 31-year-old sparred with 1980 Olympic champion Patrizio Oliva after the boxer called his agency to offer extra training following Inler’s admission he liked the sport. And the modest, likeable, Inler believes his extra training will help him succeed in England. He said: “I did it to change a little bit, boxing is good for the body. The first time when I boxed I used my energy without control and Patrizio said ‘why do you box like that? “I never managed to hit him but he could hit me easily. “The Premier League is a physical league, for sure, but when you play fast you they don’t hit you. I like physical games. “Italian football is very tactical but the Premier League is one of the best leagues, very fast. “They fight and the referees sometimes don’t whistle. In Italy they whistle all the time, maybe I like that about here.” The former Udinese man also captained Switzerland in their shock win over world champions Spain 1-0 in last year’s World Cup. Gokhan Inler wants to be a hit in England as he plans to knock out Leicester’s rivals. The midfielder is aiming to bring the skills he learnt in the boxing ring to the Barclays Premier League. Inler is set for his Foxes debut against Tottenham on Saturday after arriving from Napoli on a three-year deal this week. Inler has watched the Foxes’ opening two games, including last week’s 2-1 win at West Ham, as sees the same qualities as his national team. “You know Spain are strong but we knew with one shot we could win. It was one of the best, emotional, games of my career and this team can also grow up,” said Inler, who is likely to be joined in the squad by Christian Fuchs after he shrugs off illness. “Here, at West Ham, the team were struggling but they didn’t give up and that’s the spirit they can have. This is a club who want to make something in the future.” Press Association
“So it’s for Franck to fight hard and wait for his opportunity.” Tabanou’s two Swansea appearances to date have come in Capital One Cup ties against lower-league opposition and he has rarely made the matchday squad for Premier League games. But Monk said he was disappointed that Tabanou had spoken publicly about his frustration in the French media. “These situations are very common now and I look at them as a player being very poorly advised,” Monk said. “It’s disappointing to hear those type of things and it doesn’t benefit the player in anyway shape or form. “Your job as a professional footballer is to get your head down and do everything you can for the manager to pick you. “That means working harder than any other player in your position, less talking and more action. “That’s the way it should be as a professional footballer and it amazes me that players talk in the newspapers. “It’s not clever and it makes me think that the player is ill-advised and should have a look at himself.” However, Monk says that Tabanou, who signed a three-year contract last summer, will not be leaving Swansea in the January transfer window. “I brought Franck to the club because potentially I think he’s a great talent,” Monk said. “He’s working hard and I’m happy with him. “What he needs to realise is he has to work as hard as you can and give the manager no excuse whatsoever. “That’s his job, but at this moment Neil’s not giving the shirt up.” Press Association “I have never been used to this. The hardest thing, is to see that there is not even competition. I am not even in the squad,” Tabanou was quoted as saying in L’Equipe. “I cannot stay like this. If this continues, we will make a decision in December. But, me, I am just asking for my chance.” In the interview, however, Tabanou, who said he told his agent to ignore interest from Dynamo Kiev, Sevilla and other clubs because his preference was to join Swansea, admitted he was “not cutting it” at training when he first moved to Wales and “he was under what was required” physically. Tabanou said his fitness results were now “one of the best” at Swansea but Monk feels the 26-year-old has to show patience for a first-team opportunity. “When Franck came to the club I was surprised to see he wasn’t at the level of others in certain elements,” Monk said. “I told him that and a lot of the staff and myself have worked with Franck to get him up to the level of what is needed and required to play in this team. “Unfortunately for him, in the period it’s taken him to get to that level players in his position are already there and playing games, so they’re ahead of him. “Look at Tayls (Taylor). He came in flying straight away in pre-season and he’s ahead of Franck. Tabanou joined Swansea from St Etienne in a £3.5million deal in June and had been expected to push Wales international Neil Taylor for a first-team spot at left-back. But Tabanou has yet to play a single minute in the Barclays Premier League and spoke of his frustration in French newspaper L’Equipe this week, asking why Swansea had bought him in the first place and saying he would consider his future ahead of the January transfer window. Swansea manager Garry Monk admits he was surprised by Franck Tabanou’s physical condition when he arrived at the club last summer and says the France Under-21 international has been playing catch-up ever since.
Remi Garde expects a response and an improved performance from his Aston Villa team against Watford. Garde’s first defeat as manager was a heavy 4-0 loss to Everton last weekend in a game where Villa were three goals behind at half-time. The display was poles apart from that which earned a goalless draw at home to Manchester City in the Frenchman’s first match in charge prior to the international break. Garde did not go as far as to suggest that Saturday is a must-win match for Villa but neither is he underestimating its importance. He said: ”It is a huge game but it is not the end of the season, nobody will be relegated at the end of the weekend. Well I hope, if that is so then we are in more trouble than I thought! ”It would be a huge boost in confidence for us to win this weekend. We want to, of course, win this game and we are going to try and do it in the way we want. ”But we will also accept a victory in the last minute, I have no problem with that. ”The first minutes will be important for everyone but the result at the end will be more important.” Grealish has been dropped but s ome good news for Villa is the return to fitness of Jores Okore from a knee injury and the defender could be in the squad for the first time since the FA Cup final in May. Forward Gabriel Agbonlahor (calf) will be assessed. To make matters worse, just hours after the defeat young midfielder Jack Grealish was photographed partying on a night out and did not return home with the rest of the squad on the team coach – a breach of club discipline which has resulted in the 20-year-old being left out of the squad against the Hornets. Despite the result at Goodison Park, Garde felt Villa could take some encouragement from their second-half showing and he wants his players to begin in that same vein in front of their own supporters on Saturday. ”The first half (at Everton) was quite disappointing for me,” said Garde. ”I thought that after the first goal we didn’t resist enough, lost too many challenges and didn’t create any chances at all for the first 35 minutes. ”In the first 35 minutes I didn’t see players who want to fight for the shirt. This is not the way I want to play, we were a little bit shy. The team is new and does not really know each other yet and we have to work hard to get to know each other. ”But the reaction in the second half was much better and this week in training we have been working hard. I am still very pleased with the way we train. ”I think we can do better than we have done and I hope we can improve on Saturday because it is my responsibility to find some solutions quickly, because we need them.” Villa are without a Barclays Premier League win since the opening day of the season and are rooted to the bottom of the table, five points adrift of safety. Press Association
Wylie said: ” It was a very nice surprise to see him do what he did at Punchestown. Willie told me during the summer we’d go down the Champion Hurdle route, but that we’d try to avoid Faugheen before hopefully meeting him at Cheltenham in March if all went well. “When they were entered against each other I was surprised and Willie told me not to expect to beat Faugheen. I think he was as surprised as anyone that he did. “I think the plan will be to go to Leopardstown and hopefully myself and Andrea (wife) will get over there for a few days over Christmas. “It’s just really exciting to have what looks a live candidate for the Champion Hurdle. I’ve never had one before.” The Wylies have enjoyed a strong start to the season in Ireland, with Bellshill and Up For Review both looking like major players in the novice hurdle division after making impressive starts to their jumping careers in November. “Bellshill was very good at Cork and I was impressed with Up For Review at Fairyhouse as well, so it’s exciting times,” said Wylie. “I’m sure we’ll learn more about them when they step up in grade.” Owner Graham Wylie is looking forward to making the trip to Leopardstown over Christmas to see if Nichols Canyon can reaffirm his Champion Hurdle claims in the Ryanair Hurdle. Press Association The Willie Mullins-trained five-year-old struck four times at Grade One level during his novice campaign and inflicted a shock defeat on previously unbeaten stable companion Faugheen on his return to action in last month’s Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown. Wylie expects the pair to be kept apart until a potential rematch at Cheltenham in March and with Faugheen set to return to Kempton to defend his Christmas Hurdle crown, Nichols Canyon will head to Leopardstown on December 29 for a race won four times by recently-retired former stablemate Hurricane Fly.