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When that victorious Chelsea side walked off the pitch at the Britannia Stadium on De
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When that victorious Chelsea side walked off the pitch at the Britannia Stadium on December 22, no one could have dare imagine what was to unfold across the Barclays Premier League over the course of the next 10 days as a crestfallen Chelsea team exited White Hart Lane Thursday signifying the conclusion of the BPL festive season. From the sheer joy for Manchester City as they climbed to the summit, through to the absolute pain for Liverpool as Steven Gerrard announced he would be taking his Anfield bow at seasons end, this has been anything but a holiday for the league which keeps on giving. In this era of constant change, which demands instant success, surprisingly we went into the Boxing Day fixtures with the same cast of managers we had begun the season with. To put this into a clearer perspective, the last time this happened, you have to go all the way back to the 1995-96 season when on January 2, Derby County fired their manager. This time, the axe finally fell off course on Neil Warnock whose Crystal Palace had only managed three victories in the 16 matches the 66-year old Englishman was in charge. The club had seen more than they could take following a Boxing Day reversal at Selhurst Park. No surprise for the London bookies, who had installed Warnock as favourite for the chop. The only surprise was his appointment at Palace in the first place. Warnocks CV includes guiding two of his previous clubs to the horrors of BPL relegation. Victors in southeast London Boxing Day, Southampton rediscovered their BPL mojo over the holidays and to me, were the best performing club over this defining period. The club had gone into the Palace match in a tailspin, managing only a single win in six matches. All that early season guile and promise where Southampton were an unbridled joy to watch as they cemented a position in the top four, had all but vanished come early November. The Saints went marching on over the holidays as they destroyed Palace, were fully deserving of a point against Chelsea and then, on New Years Day, dismantled a rejuvenated Arsenal and in doing so, rightfully restored their position amongst the BPL elite. The two Manchester clubs had gone into the holidays as the two best teams in the league. Following the festive folly, the red half enter the New Year with more questions than answers. Whereas their noisy neighbours reminded us once again why they, unlike no other club in recent seasons, know how to ride the roller coaster ways of the BPL. The current champions were given up as genuine title contenders in November, as a rampant Chelsea opened up a seemingly insurmountable eight-point gap at the top. The only thing that separates the two clubs now is name only. If that scenario of identical records was to present itself at seasons end, it would result in a one-off match to decide the destination of the title. Not sure thats what league CEO Peter Scudamore envisioned when, just a few seasons back, discussing plans for adding that so termed, 39th game of the season. What though can we make of Chelseas Holiday Horribulus? From Invincibles to Invisibles quicker than Mourinho can blame the referees as his over-active mind invents conspiracy theories and anti-Chelsea campaigns are the root and cause that Chelseas procession to the title is in tatters after the thoroughly deserved walloping they took against Tottenham Thursday. Following this weekends traditional BPL break for the FA Cup third round, all the headlines leading into Newcastles visit to Stamford Bridge January 10th will all be about a highly improbable season double. If that comes to be, we can well imagine Mourinho will lay fault with the fixture scheduler. Chelsea have been perfect to date at Stamford Bridge, its their lack of success away from home that has been their undoing. May 24 is when we will really discover how vital Frank Lampards New Years Day winner was, let alone how valuable his late equalizer against his old club was back in late September. Fridays hilarious quote from Arsene Wenger that he hasnt yet counted out his club from being title contenders from a position of 13 points back almost tops the classic bon mots from Louis Van Gaal following Manchester Uniteds scoreless draw at White Hart Lane on December 28. The Dutchman described the second half against Spurs as a struggle for life, his way of criticizing the league for scheduling matches 48 hours apart, something UEFA and FIFA would not ever allow he reminded us. Welcome to England, Louis. If LVG is struggling to understand why his team that had £150m [$275m] lavished on it in the summer only managed to collect five of the nine holiday points on offer, which included a mighty fortunate draw with Stoke Thursday, I suggest the greatest thing to happen to Manchester since the Smiths texts his opposite number at Burnley, Sean Dyche. The budget for Manchester Uniteds Christmas Party likely dwarfed the entire transfer budget handed to Dyche last spring following Burnleys promotion. Yet, here was a team that followed up Boxing Days underserved home reversal against Liverpool with that now famous fight back at the Etihad some 48 hours after trudging off the Turf Moor pitch. Down by two goals to a rampant Manchester City at halftime, through sheer will and determination, Burnley not only salvaged a point, it was they in the closing minutes who seemed the team more likely to find the winner. The only conclusion to be drawn is that 48 hours in Manchester must have flown by in a New York minute for Van Gaal. Which leads us rather aptly into one of the biggest headlines over the festive season, the confirmation on New Years Eve that Frank Lampards stay at the Etihad was extended through the end of the season; even longer perhaps if Manuel Pellegrini gets his way which is sure to ruffle more stateside feathers. This, though, pails into complete insignificance with the news on Liverpools website less than 24 hours later of Steven Gerrards Anfield departure come seasons end. As much disagreement and debate abounds on who has been the best foreigner in history to grace the English Premier League, there is no doubt on who is the greatest ever player in league history not to win a title. At least on two occasions, the native Liverpudlian spurned highly lucrative offers to leave a club he joined as a youth player in 1987 in search of adding more trophies to his personal collection. Steven Gerrards real place and impact at and for Liverpool will only truly be known years after he finally hangs up his BPL boots, which will happen May 24 when Liverpool visit Stoke. Most poignantly, 24 hours later, the five-time European Champions celebrate the 10th anniversary of Istanbul - one of the most remarkable of improbable achievements in the entire 150-year history of the beautiful game. Surely no one, not even the self-ordained Special 1, would begrudge Gerrard or his club a place at this seasons FA Cup Final on May 30 and in doing so, allow the curtain to drop on Gerrards Liverpool career at the venue of so many triumphs for his club through their history. Wembley Stadium truly is Liverpools second home. Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca @TheSoccerNoel on Twitter A.J. Cole Jersey . Al Harrington, another former Knicks forward, scored 22 of his 24 points after halftime for the Nuggets, allowing them to withstand Anthonys attempt to rally the Knicks after his poor shooting had them behind until the final minutes of regulation. Anthony finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, missing 20 of 30 shots in the Knicks sixth straight loss. Nick Nelson Jersey . -- Fantasy football owners and Denver Broncos fans can rest easy: Peyton Manning is back. http://www.cheapraidersjerseyschina.com/...ll-jersey/. Anor had not scored since getting his first two goals of the season vs. Philadelphia on March 22 but struck with laser precision from distance in the 56th and 75th minutes. Montreal (3-10-5) lost its third straight and Impact coach Frank Klopas said it literally was a case of his players not stepping up. Isaiah Langley Jersey . - While a fast-paced offence has become more of a fixture in recent years, the San Antonio Spurs can still grind out games when needed. Quinton Bell Jersey .Heres Ralph the Dog with the crew here at TSN jumping into the James Duthie TradeCentre selfie: Happy to drop by! RT @TSN_Sports: @tsnjamesduthie: Take this Ellen.ST. LOUIS - Zac Stacy made his mark as a fifth-round pick last year, falling just shy of 1,000 yards. Now, the running back must prove his worth all over again. The St. Louis Rams sent a message in this years draft, taking Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason in the third round. And though theyve released Daryl Richardson, undrafted rookie Benny Cunningham was impressive last season and former second-rounder Isaiah Pead remains in the mix. Theres always going to be someone gunning for the job. "Oh absolutely, theres going to be competition," Stacy said. "Theres no doubt about that." Stacy has the advantage heading into training camp because he knows the routine, has a better grasp of the playbook and knows firsthand about the pounding that must be absorbed. "You know what to expect, you know whats going on," Stacy said. "Last year, as rookies we were all running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Its been great so far." Mason was the SEC offensive player of the year and the first non-quarterback to lead Auburn in total offence since Bo Jackson in 1985, running for 1,816 yards with 23 touchdowns and setting school single-season records for all-purpose yards and rushing TDs. Given Mason shredded Missouri for 304 yards and four TDs in the SEC championship game, he arrived at Rams Park a well-known commodity. He wont be satisfied as a change-of-pace option, coach Jeff Fishers initial assessment. "Not sure how it starts out, and you never know what can happen in the future," Mason said. "Im here to do what they ask of me." Stacys rookie season is a good example. The first four games, he was inactive twice and totalled 4 yards on a single carry. Stacy is Vanderbilts career leading rusher. Mason was a much bigger star in the SEC for Auburns national championship runners-up and deemed a premium pick. "Im happy for Tre or whatnot," Stacy said. "Obviously, with him being one of the top college running backs last yyear, we know the things he can do, and its all about the adjustment to the playbook.dddddddddddd." Stacy aims to make everything come naturally on the field, so hes not taking the teams OTA sessions lightly "Very important, very important," Stacy said. "Treating every rep like its a game rep." Richardson was the starter entering training camp last summer, coming off an effective rookie season as the Steven Jacksons understudy, but was dogged by foot injuries. Stacy got the starting job in Week 5 and didnt let go. Hes not wasting time fretting about settling for 973 yards when the 49ers held him to 15 yards on 15 carries in the finale. "My mentality is to go out and be productive," he said. "Being consistent with my play, I think the yards and stats and accolades will come." Stacy is a compact 5-foot-9 and 224 pounds, runs low to the ground, hits the hole quickly and can bounce off tacklers. The Rams rested him most or all of practice weeks, allowing him to recover from the punishment and stay fresh for game days. Mason is an inch shorter and 20 pounds lighter but was extremely durable at Auburn, and big in the big games. He followed up his signature game against Missouri with 195 yards rushing in the national championship game against Florida State. Hes still running behind college teammate and close friend Greg Robinson, the second overall pick of the draft, wholl begin his career at left guard. "Ive got to do it to learn it," Mason said. "Im the type of guy whos hands-on." Cunningham, 5-foot-10 and 217 pounds, was undrafted out of Middle Tennessee. Both he and Stacy had 100-yard games against the Bears in Week 12, and he totalled 261 yards in limited duty with a 5.6-yard average. Pead had 21 yards on seven carries, all in the first two games of the season, plus 11 receptions with a 7.1-yard average. He reportedly was shopped during the draft. ___ Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL Cheap Jerseys China NFL Jerseys Cheap NBA Jerseys Wholesale NHL Jerseys Wholesale MLB Jerseys Cheap Soccer Jerseys China Wholesale NCAA Jerseys Wholesale Football Jerseys Wholesale Basketball Jerseys Wholesale Baseball Jerseys ' ' '
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