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The Sport Matrix: Thursday 21 March 2013


Haïdara shock at lack of action over McManaman tackle

Newcastle United defender Massadio Haïdara last night voiced his astonishment that Wigan's Callum McManaman would not face a Football Association ban for the horrific knee-high challenge on him on Sunday – a decision he said was "hard to swallow" and meant the midfielder would be playing before he would.

"I don't understand," the 20-year-old, above, said. "His tackle could have ended my career but in the end he will play football before me. We have to protect the players. I don't want to change the physical mentality, pace and commitment of football in England but we can't tolerate tackles like this."

Scans have shown no damage to his knee ligaments or broken bones in the leg – and that he escaped with substantial bruising.

But the psychological effect of the tackle, in which Haïdara says McManaman was onto him like a bombe [missile], will clearly be far harder to deal with when he returns, possibly in two or three weeks. "I need to be cautious and don't want to go back too fast," he said. "I will be apprehensive. I can't let it impede the way I play. I can't dwell on what's happened. I will get back onto my feet. I have to."

Bairstow in frame following KP injury

Kevin Pietersen faces a race to be fit for England's home series with New Zealand after being ruled out for six to eight weeks with a knee injury. His place for the third Test of the series in New Zealand, beginning tonight, may be taken by the batsman Jonny Bairstow.

Watson reduces captain's picks

The US Ryder Cup skipper Tom Watson is to cut the number of captain's picks from four to three for next year. "Players ought to get another shot at the team because of their play," he said. "Giving players the opportunity to earn a spot on merit is the right thing to do." MORE

O'Driscoll handed three-week ban

Ireland centre Brian O'Driscoll has been banned for three weeks after his stamp on Italy's Simone Favaro during their Six Nations match last weekend. He will now miss Leinster's matches with Glasgow and Ulster, along with the Amlin Cup quarter-final tie at Wasps. MORE

Poyet close to right Royal appointment

Reading are close to appointing Brighton's Gus Poyet as manager. There is a willingness on both sides to get the deal done and only the details of the Uruguayan's contract need to be finalised ahead of an announcement this week. Reading parted company with Brian McDermott 10 days ago. MORE

US prize increase challenges SW19

Wimbledon is under pressure to increase prize money after the US Open announced it was upping rewards to a total of £22.2m this year. That is an increase of £5.3m on last year’s event, when Andy Murray lifted the men’s singles title. MORE

Wiggins second after late attack

Bradley Wiggins moved up to second in the Tour of Catalonia after finishing fourth in yesterday's stage three. The Briton burst clear late on before being caught, but is just four seconds behind new leader Alejandro Valverde. MORE

Blackburn face court humiliation

Blackburn Rovers may be ordered by the High Court to pay up former manager Henning Berg's contract. The Championship club face a summary judgment next Thursday over the alleged breach of contract, with Berg reportedly owed £2m. MORE

Hart happy to take back seat in goal

Joe Hart says he is not worried about a quiet night when England take on San Marino tomorrow. "My idea of being in goal is to do my bit and stay out of the way," the goalkeeper said. "If that means taking two goal-kicks, that's fine." MORE

Watson thinks again over break

Heather Watson has reversed her decision to take a break from the sport. "Yesterday when speaking to the press I was upset about my match and wasn't thinking straight," she said. "I'm going to carry on with my schedule."

James Lawton

At Blackburn, where Michael Appleton was the third manager this season, and Forest, who have also had three since July, foreign ownership resembles nothing so much as arrivals on an alien planet. MORE