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Downing gets England nod

Stewart Downing has been called into the England squad for their Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro on Tuesday after Aaron Lennon was ruled out with a sore back.

The Tottenham winger missed training on Friday after reporting the problem and after further tests yesterday morning, it was decided to release him back to his club for treatment.

Lennon is the second player to leave camp in as many days after Phil Jagielka's withdrawal with a hamstring injury. Downing won the last of his 23 caps against Slovakia in March 2009, since when his career was put on hold by a foot injury that ruled him out for six months.

It means Downing will link up with former Middlesbrough team-mate Adam Johnson at international level for the first time, although it is the younger of the pair, now at Manchester City, who is far more likely to start as England look to preserve their 100 per cent record against the Group G leaders.

Williams aims to repay Flynn

Captain Ashley Williams feels Wales owe caretaker manager Brian Flynn a good performance next week after letting him down on Friday.

Flynn suffered defeat in his first match in temporary charge of the Welsh national side as Bulgaria won their Euro 2012 qualifier at the Cardiff City Stadium 1-0.

The result has left Wales's hopes of reaching the finals in tatters and Flynn now has just Tuesday's next Group G game in Switzerland remaining to prove his suitability for the job full-time.

"We have worked well all week and I wouldn't like to say we just let him down," said Williams, who was handed the armband by Flynn in the absence of Craig Bellamy.

"We have probably let ourselves and everyone involved down, not just him. We would have liked to have got a win for him to repay him for the week we've had."

Flynn must do without the services of Celtic midfielder Joe Ledley for the Switzerland clash after he withdrew from the squad because his partner Ruby is expecting their child.

Gill defends United model

Manchester United chief executive David Gill has said fans should not fear the club going down the same road as Liverpool despite losses of £83.6m.

Fans' group Manchester United Supporters' Trust (MUST) say the "clock is ticking" on the Glazer family's ownership of United and that a similar outcome to Liverpool could arise but that is denied by the club's senior executive.

"I can't speak for any other club but the United fans should not be concerned," Gill said. "We have a long-term financing structure in place, excellent revenues that are growing, we are controlling our costs -- total wages are 46 per cent of turnover -- and we can afford the interest on our long-term finance.

"In our opinion if something changed in the ownership this club will survive and continue -- it is covering the financing cost more than adequately.

"We still have cash to invest in players and to give good contracts to players and we are comfortable with the business model."

Hughes relief after City exit

Mark Hughes believes he is a better manager for his tough experiences at Manchester City and has vowed to remain true to his own principles in the rest of his career.

Hughes was sacked as City boss last year after failing to deliver the club's cash-rich owners the instant success their investment required.

After several months out of the game, the 46-year-old replaced Roy Hodgson at Fulham this summer.

He now says he felt relieved when his Eastlands spell was over after admitting he too often "toed the line" against his instincts.

"How was I treated? At times, I had support. At times, I needed support and I didn't get it," Hughes said.

"I toed the party line more than I should. I compromised my own values more than I should. It won't happen again but I'll say this: it has made me a better manager."

Houllier puts players to task

New Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier has introduced double training sessions so his players are fit enough to embrace the passing game he wants them to adopt.

The Villa squad are undertaking fitness work in the mornings and then technical work in the afternoons as the Houllier revolution begins to take shape after nearly a month at the helm.

The former Liverpool boss is putting emphasis on players doing more running when in possession of the ball -- and they can only manage this effectively if fit enough.

"We've had double training sessions with fitness work in the morning and more technical football in the afternoon," said Villa defender Luke Young,

"I think the manager wants us as fit as we possibly can be and we have no complaints. If I was a manager, that's exactly what I would want as well and the lads are enjoying it. It's been good. Everything is being taken on board."

Sunday Independent