Sunderland appoint Sbragia
Coach Ricky Sbragia, who has been in charge of Sunderland as caretaker since Roy Keane quit, has been appointed manager, the Premier League club announced on Saturday. “Ricky took up the reins when we were at a low ebb and has without doubt revitalised the club. He is the unanimous choice of the executive board,” chairman Niall Quinn said on the club’s Web site. Sbragia, a 52-year-old Scot, took charge early this month after Keane walked out with the team in the relegation zone. He has signed an 18-month contract. In four matches since Keane’s departure, Sunderland have impressed with two wins and a draw lifting them to 14th.
Ferdinand out for 10 days
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand will be out for 10 days after a recurrence of a back injury before Friday’s 1-0 win at Stoke. Ferdinand is set to miss today’s match against Middlesbrough and the following weekend’s FA Cup third-round match at Southampton. It is just a month since he was sidelined with the same injury. “He had a back spasm again, we have to get to the root of this,” manager Alex Ferguson said. “He’s had this back problem too many times, so we want to get to the bottom of it. First of all, we’ll give him complete rest, but I think he’ll be OK in about 10 days.”
Beckham deal goes flat
Despite his high-profile loan move to AC Milan, the fizz could be evaporating from David Beckham’s commercial appeal after ending a 10-year deal with Pepsi. “David’s football legacy will live on and everyone at Pepsi will continue to be as passionate about his success as we have been over the last 10 years,” the soft drinks manufacturer said. “We wish David well with the many projects he is pursuing and look forward to the possibility of partnering together with him again someday.” The 33-year-old still has lucrative sponsorship deals with major brands like Adidas and Armani. “I have nothing but good memories of my association with Pepsi,” Beckham said. “I’ve played a gladiator, a cowboy, a surfer, and worked alongside Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez as well as some of the biggest names in world football.”
Cup winner Miller dies
George Miller, who won the Scottish Cup with Dunfermline in 1961, has died aged 69 of cancer, it was announced on Saturday. Miller’s moment of glory came under the stewardship of Scottish soccer great Jock Stein and saw the unfashionable club claim its first ever piece of silverware with a 2-0 replay victory over Celtic. Miller went on to play for then English giants Wolves but he soon returned to Scotland to play for Hearts.
Fans demand Basque team
Thousands of people marched through the city of Bilbao on Saturday to demand the Basque soccer team be allowed to take part in international competitions. Britain is allowed “to have teams from Scotland or from Wales play at international level and we are demanding that same right within the states of Spain and France,” said Elisa Sainz de Murieta, the head of the Basque Solidarity political party. The demonstrators marched behind a banner reading “Basque Nation, one nation, one national team, one federation.” A Basque soccer team, drawn from the Basque regions of both Spain and France, does exist but it is not officially recognized by the game’s authorities and is restricted to occasional friendly games.