SPORTS AGENDA: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprises Man United staff with Christmas gift

SPORTS AGENDA: Sacked boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprises Man United staff with Christmas gifts – bringing emotional scenes… as EFL clubs agree to don away kits at home in Boxing Day gesture for homeless charity

  • Sacked Man United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his old staff a present 
  • Amanda Staveley criticises chairman’s charter vote and drops out 
  • The Autosport editor sent an open letter to Max Verstappen before title finale
  • Chelsea handed out spare booster shot to journalists at Leeds match 
  • Nineteen EFL clubs have committed to a homeless charity gesture 





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Surprise at Manchester United’s training ground when a bundle of luxury Christmas hampers turned up. 

It turned out they had been sent to key staff by former manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Despite his departure, Solskjaer is still held in great esteem among workers at United and his act of generosity made for some emotional scenes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his former staff at Manchester United a gift for Christmas

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer sent his former staff at Manchester United a gift for Christmas 

Conte eyes an Arsenal purchase 

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte made the most of a day off when his side’s clash with Rennes was called off due to Covid cases. 

The Italian was spotted shopping in the West End and took a passing interest in French designer store Les 100 Ciels, which is owned by an Arsenal supporter. 

Meanwhile, Spurs fans have launched a petition calling on the club to bring back veteran match day compere Paul Coyte, who was replaced this season after 16 years. Spurs say Coyte continues to work on ‘particular matchdays’.  

Verstappen plea backfires 

A bizarre open letter to Max Verstappen by Autosport chief editor Kevin Turner in which he pleaded with the driver to keep things clean in Sunday’s title decider quickly backfired.

Unsurprisingly, Verstappen’s Red Bull media team failed to appreciate the message and an interview the magazine had lined up with reserve driver Alex Albon had to be cancelled, with the Thai-British racer promptly called to another meeting. 

Max Verstappen paid little attention to an Autosport open letter to him over clean racing

Max Verstappen paid little attention to an Autosport open letter to him over clean racing 

Hogs off the menu for tight MCC 

Four years ago the miserly MCC told Hampshire Hogs they were no longer prepared to pay match fees for their annual fixture at Warnford in Hampshire. 

The outraged Hogs told MCC the fixture would not take place if they didn’t stump up before John Stephenson, then MCC’s cricket secretary, relented. 

Stephenson has since left to run Essex and MCC will bring a match ball and umpire but are once again refusing to pay a sum to cover tea and the groundsman’s costs (about £20 per player). Hogs are now appealing to MCC’s treasurer, Tony Elgood, saying the match will not go ahead next summer if this remains MCC’s stance.  

Sussex Martlets at Arundel are taking the same firm line as Hogs which means MCC could lose two long-standing fixtures on two of the loveliest grounds in the country. 

The stingy move comes as sit-down tea (always an emotive subject in club and village cricket) was reinstated after being cancelled for two years owing to Covid. 

Staveley ducks chairman vote 

Eyebrows were raised at a recent Premier League summit when new Newcastle United director Amanda Staveley said she could not participate in the upcoming vote on the proposed chairman’s charter. 

She said she did not feel the issue had been considered sufficiently and that there had not been enough information to make an informed decision.

More seasoned veterans noted that by the time Staveley was called to vote, 13 of the 20 clubs would have already given their response (the vote is taken in alphabetical order) and that she — as is the way with most others — could simply have swum with the tide.

Amanda Staveley has criticised the proposed chairman's charter and ducked out of a vote

Amanda Staveley has criticised the proposed chairman’s charter and ducked out of a vote 

Sky cull continues 

The redundancies at Sky Sports News continue to come thick and fast. After the summer cull, which saw a host of familiar faces shown the door, comes the departure of four directors, three of whom are women — Jane Ireland, Clare Boulton and Steph Evans.

Day editor Laurie Tucker and planning editor Haydn Mackenzie are also going and, in a message to staff confirming the latest departures, station director Mark Alford surprised some when he signed off his email ‘Alfie’.

Sky say the latest redundancies are part of the same process, point out that the remaining four directors are all women and say that ‘Alfie’ is how everyone refers to Alford.

Sky Sports are undergoing a massive turnover of staff after a summer cull this year

Sky Sports are undergoing a massive turnover of staff after a summer cull this year 

Tumbleweed at Raducanu jibe

Awkward laughter at the recent Sports Journalists’ Association’s British Sports Awards when Annabel Croft was invited on stage to say a few words after Emma Raducanu was named best newcomer.

When asked by presenter Jim Rosenthal what advice she would give Raducanu, Croft told a room of hacks: ‘She should never read what is written about her.’  

Blues hand out jabs 

A boost for reporters covering the Chelsea versus Leeds match on Saturday, when the home side’s much-needed victory was not the only shot in the arm.

About an hour after the final whistle club medics came into the press room and announced that they had four booster jabs that were going to waste. 

Four hands quickly went up and, after forms were filled in, the Pfizer shots were administered.

EFL commit to homeless gesture  

Nineteen EFL clubs have so far pledged to wear their away shirts for Boxing Day home matches to support homeless charity Shelter.

Preston, Barnsley and Coventry are among those who will back the No Home Kit campaign.

The po-faced Premier League have told their clubs they cannot follow suit, but Tottenham, Everton, Watford and Brighton are supporting the cause via other initiatives.

Coventry are among 19 clubs in the EFL who have agreed to wear their away kit on Boxing Day

Coventry are among 19 clubs in the EFL who have agreed to wear their away kit on Boxing Day 

BT boast 

Alongside sharing an article from The Telegraph concerning Discovery’s apparent interest in purchasing BT’s sports operation, BT head of sport Simon Green boldly claimed in an email to staff that the channel has produced better live football and rugby than ever seen on any Discovery network. 

Green also stated that BT recently aired a better boxing show than DAZN has ever created. DAZN are still regarded as the front-runners to take BT Sport off the BT Group’s hands.

Hunt hauled in front of BBC bosses  

John Hunt was spoken to by BBC bosses after his participation in a series of short videos discussing tips at Aintree.

The BBC commentator also appeared in a promotional tweet for the track wearing a jacket with the BBC logo. A punter complained, questioning whether this was appropriate in light of his work for the corporation.

The broadcaster’s executive complaints unit found no conflict of interest or anything in Hunt’s work for Aintree that would affect the BBC’s impartiality, but said that the tweet had ‘the potential to suggest BBC endorsement of a commercial product’. 

No action was taken as the tweet had been removed and BBC Sport management had already called in Hunt for a chat.

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