Stoke City’s new manager, Michael O’Neill, may be forced to sell players in January, within weeks of taking charge at the club, to reduce the chances of his employers falling foul of the EFL’s profit and sustainability rules.

The Championship club have yet to publish their accounts for last season, but they posted losses of £30.1million during their last season in the Premier League in 2017-18, since when they have continued to operate with a high wage bill despite significantly reduced income.

Under EFL rules, clubs face sanctions if they make losses of more than £39m over a three-year period, and Stoke are in danger of breaching that threshold unless they are promoted, and with them bottom of the Championship table, that seems unlikely.

Michael O’Neill’s first job at Stoke City may be to sell off their best assests due to EFL rules 

So players such as Jack Butland and Joe Allen could be sold to give Stoke more financial leeway ahead of next season, the last one in which the club will receive Premier League parachute payments. O’Neill has been promised money to spend during the January transfer window, but that will be contingent on player sales.


The FA have shown caution in holding back on booking travel for Gareth Southgate and other executives to attend the European Championship draw in Bucharest later this month until after England have qualified. 

Southgate’s side only need one point from their games against Montenegro on Thursday and Kosovo on Sunday to confirm their place at the tournament, but following last month’s shock defeat in Czech Republic the FA are taking nothing for granted.

The FA will not book any travel to the EURO 2020 draw until England confirm qualification


West Bromwich Albion have bought executive season tickets at several Championship clubs for use by their scouts, following difficulties gaining access for their talent spotters at a number of grounds. 

The Championship leaders signed three players from clubs in the same division last summer, after recruiting four from their closest competitors the previous season. 

This recruitment appears to have upset rivals, who have decided to make life more difficult for them. West Brom’s response has been to pay for access where necessary, a strategy which seems to be paying off.


Jurgen Klopp would have faced a race to make the kick-off for Liverpool’s Club World Cup semi-final in Qatar next month, had he chosen to take charge of their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Aston Villa 24 hours earlier.

The club identified a flight from Birmingham Airport to Doha on Wednesday, December 18 which, theoretically, would have enabled Klopp to attend both the Carabao Cup tie at Villa Park the previous evening and the start of the Club World Cup.

But there was little margin for error. The Qatar Airways flight is not due to land until 5.30pm local time, two hours before kick-off.

So Klopp is set to entrust Carabao Cup duties to Liverpool’s Under 23s coach Neil Critchley, as reported by Sportsmail earlier this week.

Jurgen Klopp will entrust Carabao Cup duties to Liverpool’s Under 23s coach Neil Critchley


The EFL have no plans to review two-legged semi-finals for the Carabao Cup that appear to have infuriated several Premier League managers, most recently Jurgen Klopp. 

The EFL board have begun discussing next season’s fixture list, but altering the two midweek dates allotted for Carabao Cup semi-finals each January is not on the agenda. And they have not had a request from any club to do so, despite myriad complaints in the media. 

Sky Sports would demand a rebate from the EFL if one of the semi-finals was cut before their contract ends in 2024, as those games are among the most attractive to viewers and sponsors, with the Carabao Cup accounting for around one-third of the £595m TV deal.

The EFL appear to have no plans to review two-legged semi-finals for the Carabao Cup


Sky Sports News staff are questioning the true extent of what was billed as a ‘global search’ to find a new director for the channel, which culminated in the appointment of Mark Alford last month. 

The six-month process triggered by the departure of executive editor Andy Cairns after 30 years resulted in Sky interviewing a shortlist of two existing staff members, who between them have spent more than 20 years working at their Isleworth HQ. 

With less than five years’ service at the broadcaster — split between Sky News and Sky Sports News — Alford is a relative newcomer by Sky standards.

AHEAD OF THE GAME: Michael O’Neill’s first job at Stoke? Selling off all their big names

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