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Sports News

Winter wonder in Cornwallis at Newmarket

Winter Power showed no signs of a busy campaign catching up with her after making virtually all to claim the Newmarket Academy Godolphin Beacon Project Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket.

The Tim Easterby-trained daughter of Bungle Inthejungle secured her fourth victory from nine starts this season with a clear-cut success in the Group Three prize.

Although briefly headed midway through the five-furlong dash, the 10-1 shot, who claimed Listed honours at Ayr on her last outing, quickly pressed on once regaining the initiative to cross the line three lengths clear of runner-up and favourite, Method.

Winning jockey Silvestre de Sousa said: “She won quite well at Ayr and has bounced back in great form. She has done really well and won very easily. She just ran in a very competitive race (Flying Childers) at Doncaster where I got beat on her.

“She has shown me plenty of encouragement today to travel very handy and when I asked her the question coming down the dip she handled it well and put the race to bed very nicely.”

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Despite Winter Power – who was introduced at 25-1 for the Commonwealth Cup with William Hill and 33-1 by Betfair – being campaigned exclusively over five furlongs this season, De Sousa believes that with time she might get a bit further.

He added: “This year five is as far as we want to go, but we are nearly at the end of the season and with another couple of months on her back six furlongs will be suitable.

“I think when she fills up over the winter she might just strengthen up. I don’t know how good she will be, but she will always be in the mix in good races.”

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Soccer

James Maddison wins Premier League Goal of the Month for September

James Maddison wins Premier League Goal of the Month for September thanks to sublime curling strike during Leicester’s emphatic victory at Manchester City

  • James Maddison scored a screamer during Leicester’s 5-2 victory at Man City
  • England midfielder curled home into the top corner past City keeper Ederson
  • On Friday, Maddison’s superb strike was voted September’s Goal of the Month 

James Maddison’s incredible strike against Manchester City has been awarded Premier League’s Goal of the Month for September.

Maddison scored the pick of the goals as Leicester ran riot at the Etihad on September 27, winning 5-2 after an inspiring performance from striker Jamie Vardy.

After Vardy wrapped up his hat-trick, Maddison took centre stage in Manchester – curling home into the top right corner from outside the penalty area, leaving City goalkeeper Ederson with absolutely no chance.

Leicester’s James Maddison wins September’s Goal of the Month award in the Premier League

Maddison’s strike put the Foxes 4-1 ahead at the Etihad – and it was his first goal of the 2020-21 Premier League campaign.

Maddison pipped the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Jack Harrison, Mohamed Salah, Reece James, Matheus Pereira, Marcus Rashford and Riyad Mahrez to the award. 

The England midfielder has become the first Leicester player to win the award since Harvey Barnes claimed the gong in August 2019 thanks to his emphatic strike away at Sheffield United. 

Maddison curls home into the top right corner against Manchester City at the Etihad

The victory at the Etihad ensured Leicester enjoyed the perfect start to the new Premier League season under Brendan Rodgers, winning their first three matches in style – scoring 12 times along the way.

However, the Foxes crashed back down to earth after they were defeated 3-0 at home to West Ham last time out in the top-flight.

Rodgers will be desperate for his side to bounce back in style when they take on Aston Villa at the King Power Stadium next Saturday. 

Brendan Rodgers celebrates with Maddison following his fantastic strike against City




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Soccer

Deadline Day Man Utd signing Amad Diallo Traore confirms his favoured name

Manchester United’s deadline day signing from Atalanta has confirmed he wants to be known as Amad Diallo.

Many were calling the 18-year-old winger Amad Traore, with his name officially being Amad Diallo Traore.

But the Atalanta star, who will head to Old Trafford in January, took to Instagram to reveal what his preference is.

He posted a story on Instagram, writing: “I updated with the new name”. And his new username is AmadDiallo79.

Reports earlier this week suggested Diallo, who could not sign in the summer due to work permit and passport issues, has already undergone his United medical.

Italian outlet TuttoMercatoWeb reported that Diallo was undergoing his United medical in Bergamo on Thursday.

It was also claimed that Atalanta will receive 15 per cent of any future sale for Diallo with United paying €25m up front.

The overall fee could raise to €40m with a potential €15m in bonuses and performance related add-ons.

  • Man Utd players believe Jose Mourinho made "masterstroke" decision in Spurs' 6-1 win

He made his first-team breakthrough at Atalanta last season and has played just 24 minutes across three substitute appearances for the senior side.

Parma are unhappy after they lost out to United in the race to sign Diallo in the closing stages of the transfer window.

Parma’s director Alessandro Lucarelli said: “You must ask Atalanta about Diallo. We had the agreement and then the negotiation with Manchester United started and they sold him.”

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Though he joined United with boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer telling the youngster that he is sure the winger will become an important player for the Red Devils.

Respected transfer journalist Fabrizio Romano has claimed that United’s hierarchy are ‘convinced’ in Diallo’s talent with it reported that the player shared a FaceTime conversation with Solskjaer.

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Soccer

Chilwell ruled out of Belgium game due to non-Covid related illness

Ben Chilwell set to miss England’s match against Belgium on Sunday due to non-Covid related illness after being omitted from Wales clash after ‘Rule of Six’ breach during birthday party at Tammy Abraham’s home

  • Ben Chilwell will miss England’s game versus Belgium with a non-Covid illness 
  • Chilwell missed win versus Wales after breaching Government’s ‘Rule of Six’
  • Defender attended Tammy Abraham’s birthday party along with Jadon Sancho
  • Abraham and Sancho set to link up with squad following coronavirus tests

Ben Chilwell will miss England’s Nations League game at home to Belgium on Sunday due to a non-Covid related illness.

Chilwell was absent for the victory against Wales on Thursday after he was delayed from entering the England camp along with Tammy Abraham and Sancho.

The three players attended a surprise birthday party for Abraham at the Chelsea stiriker’s flat last weekend, with the gathering having around 20 guests, therefore breaching the ‘Rule of Six’ put in place by the Government.  

Ben Chilwell will miss England’s game against Belgium with a non-Covid related illness

Gareth Southgate will have to use an alternative option on the left side of the defence

Following England’s 3-0 win against Wales, manager Gareth Southgate said that Chilwell, Sancho and Abraham would be permitted to link up with the squad if they passed a UEFA-mandated coronavirus test.

While Sancho and Abraham have taken the test, Chilwell’s reintegration into the squad has been delayed further still due to a non-Covid related illness. 

Even with Chilwell unavailable again, Southgate has several options to consider when deciding who he should select at left-back against Belgium.

Chilwell had been delayed from entering the England camp after breaching coronavirus rules by attending Chelsea team-mate Tammy Abraham’s birthday party

Jadon Sancho, who also attended the party, is set to join Abraham by linking up with the squad

Arsenal youngster Bukayo Saka started against Wales, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is also capable of playing there and Kieran Trippier was used out of position on the left side of the defence during the last set of international fixtures. 

The party at Abraham’s flat took place just hours after Chelsea’s win against Crystal Palace last Saturday in which the striker and Chilwell were both involved.

Abraham issued an apology last Sunday, saying: ‘I arrived home to find a small surprise gathering.

‘Though I was totally unaware this was planned, I would like to wholeheartedly apologise for the naivety shown for the organisation and attending of this gathering.

All I can do now is learn from it, apologise to everyone and ensure it never happens again.’ 




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Rugby

Lynch, on the edge of trouble again, without him Richmond would be

Tom Lynch has been a transformational player for the Richmond Football Club. Without him, the Tigers would not have won the 2019 premiership.

Without him, they couldn't beat the Brisbane Lions last week. Had Lynch played – and his prospective opponent Harris Andrews hadn't – there's a fair argument that the Tigers would have been straight into the preliminary final, rather than having to deal with an admittedly inferior St Kilda in a cut-throat semi-final.

Without him, the Tigers would find it much harder to beat Port Adelaide in the preliminary final.
Without him and his hulking presence, they might have beaten the Saints, but the outcome wouldn't have been as inevitable.

The moment in question.Credit:Getty Images

Lynch will face match review officer scrutiny – again – for dropping his left knee on defender Dougal Howard in the third quarter, in what was clearly an intentional act.

Two factors are in Lynch's favour. One is that there was not much force in Lynch's action and Howard was not hurt – he played out the game, with no apparent issue – and the AFL's justice system places significant store in the consequences for the victim of any reportable offence; had Howard been hurt – and this was demonstrated in St Kilda's medical report – Lynch would be in strife and the Tigers heading to Adelaide without their most important player, bar Dusty Martin.

The other factor, which the AFL would deny, is that there's often leniency shown towards important players during the finals where match review/tribunal decisions arise.

So, much as the incident was unsavoury, unnecessary and another lapse of ill-discipline, it would be surprising if Lynch got a week.

This game underscored the two themes surrounding Lynch this season.

One is that he's hugely important to Richmond's forward structure, given the contest he provides, the packs he crashes, creating goals for the swarming, highly skilled quicksilver smalls such as Shai Bolton and Shane Edwards, who shared in five important first-half goals.

Jack Riewoldt is not quite the potent forward of 2017, and he's not 200 centimetres. When they played the Lions, Riewoldt was smothered, and the smalls didn't have the Lynch reference point for high balls.

Very few key forwards in the AFL provide that kind of pillar that holds up a forward line.

Further, Lynch has a knack for kicking a goal when the situation demands it, despite his errant boot in the second half of this final (0.5). He contributed two of Richmond's super efficient 9.1 to half-time.

His first set the tone for his side, as he marked one-out v Howard, his undersized opponent, in the opening minute and nailed the shot from 45 metres on an angle.

The other, less laudatory theme surrounding Lynch of 2020 has been his propensity to commit these off-the-ball acts that put him on the edge of suspension, as he did when he punched Gold Coast's Sam Collins in the midriff and when he pushed Lion Alex Witherden's head into the turf and got Bomber Michael Hurley high.

None of these were heinous, which is why he's averted suspension, although MRO Michael Christian did send him to the tribunal for the Hurley incident, only to evade consequence.

In this game, both of these leitmotifs of Lynch's season came together. He was enormously influential in Richmond's victory, despite the profligacy of booting 2.5. Had he been on target, he'd be close to the best player afield.

The significance of Lynch was further underlined by the contrasting efficiency of the two sides. The Saints were incredibly labour intensive when searching for goals. They missed shots, missed open teammates and often needed several efforts to create a chance.

Conversely, the Tigers couldn't miss in the first half, when the match-winning advantage was built, and while Lynch himself was awry in his conversion, the smalls at his feet were unerring in their accuracy when it mattered.

He was crucial, and he will remain so in Richmond's premiership campaign. Without him, the Tigers aren't the same.

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MLB

Matt Nagy on Bears getting to 4-1 by beating Bucs: 'We find ways to win and it's not always pretty'

It wasn’t a picture-perfect game from Matt Nagy’s team. The Chicago Bears coach will freely admit that fact. But anytime you can beat Tom Brady in primetime, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Following the 20-19 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Nagy cooed over his team’s resiliency.

“I think any time you go 4-1, you get to a point where they are not always the prettiest of wins, but I look to end the game with our defense, having an opportunity to shut down possibly the greatest quarterback to ever play this game with a 1:13 to go, down one point and then to come through with that, that’s a huge win,” Nagy said, via the team’s official transcript. “But you know, the best part about all this, and I’m super excited about with our players and our coaches is that we are 4-1 and we know we can play a lot better.”

It was an inauspicious start for the Bears. Nick Foles threw a wayward pass brutally off-target on the first third down, and the offense sputtered as Chicago got down 13-0 early.

As it has all season, Nagy’s squad battled back.

Late in the second quarter, a fortunate offside call that went against the Bucs instead of the Bears made a potential third-and-17 a convertible third-and-7 helped Chicago cut the lead to 13-7. Kyle Fuller then made a great crushing hit to cause a fumble on the next play, allowing the Bears to take a halftime lead.

Just when Chicago looked like it was about to get blown out, Nagy’s team made it a dogfight.

“I said this a few weeks ago, there’s something special about this team. We find ways to win and it’s not always pretty. We totally understand that,” Nagy said. “I mean, this is a big win for us right now, when you look at this to be 4-1. Every win is crucial, so I’m proud of our coaches and players for that.”

Foles epitomized not always looking pretty but getting the job done time after time. The starting quarterback made several brutally bad passes throughout the game — at least one of which fortunately led to a defensive pass interference. He also made some pinpoint passes that helped save the day, like the gorgeous touch toss to David Montgomery to set up Cairo Santos’ game-winning field goal.

“That’s who he is,” Nagy said of Foles’ ability to lead comebacks despite not playing his best. “Overall the offense made plays when they had to and I think that’s one of the special traits that Nick has.”

The offense made enough plays, got a ton of help from Bucs penalties (11 for 109 yards called against Tampa), and the defense again showed it’s one of the best units in the NFL with Khalil Mack reminding the world he’s a superstar.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Bears are 4-1 with a win over a team they could be jockeying with for playoff position come December.

If the win-column cared about style points, how the game looked might be of consequence. Fortunately for Nagy, it matters not one iota. The Bears are 4-1. For today, that’s all that matters.

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Basketball

NBA Finals 2020: LeBron James? Anthony Davis? Jimmy Butler? Who wins Finals MVP?

LeBron James? Anthony Davis? Jimmy Butler? Who will be named NBA Finals MVP and receive the Bill Russell trophy.


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At this stage of the NBA Finals, talk starts to turn towards the player most deserving of the Finals MVP award. Frivolous though it may be to some, the annual trophy adds intrigue and discussion to a stage of the competition when the outcome seems inevitable.

  • Bam Adebayo: Heat’s ‘backs are against the wall’ in NBA Finals
  • LeBron James: Anthony Davis ‘spectacular’ in Game 4 win

That is not to say there is not any fight left in the Miami Heat. This is one of the best structured and hardest working rosters to be down 3-1 in the championship round’s history, and fully healthy, they might have brought an even tougher fight to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But whether it has been the Heat’s injuries, the elite talent and coaching of the team in purple and gold, the divine presence of Kobe Bryant giving his old team new life, or the fact that LeBron James knows how to handle this point of the season better than anyone else still playing professional basketball, it is hard to imagine the Lakers losing three straight games to miss out on lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

So, when the series concludes, who will be holding the Bill Russell Finals MVP award? Let’s examine the three leading candidates.

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Jimmy Butler

As far fetched as it might seem, there is precedent for the Finals MVP to be from the non-winning team. In 1969, the Los Angeles Lakers missed out on the championship in heartbreaking fashion, losing to the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series for the ages.

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Laker guard Jerry West scored 53 in the opening game and averaged 37.9 points in the series. His team-mate Wilt Chamberlain managed 25 rebounds per game, while their opponents boasted Bill Russell, who averaged 21 rebounds, and John Havlicek, who averaged 28 points.

In Game 7, the Lakers mounted a massive comeback in the fourth quarter, out-scoring Boston 30-17 in the final frame. But the Celtics held on and the Lakers lost by just two points, despite 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists from West, who played every second of the game to earn Finals MVP honours.

Unless Miami overcome the odds to force a Game 7, it is unlikely anyone on the Heat will be walking away with an individual trophy.

But if they do, it will be presented to the only player who has put together West-like lines. In the one win they have managed so far, Jimmy Butler recorded 40 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists. No Goran Dragic, a limited Bam Adebayo and reduced production from Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro makes Butler the only candidate.

Anthony Davis

In his first year with the Lakers, and in the first Finals appearance of his career, Anthony Davis put his stamp on the series and made people question exactly who the Most Valuable Player was on this team. In Game 1, his 34 points and nine rebounds registered the highest plus-minus (how much the team out-scored their opponent with that player on the court) of the game with +23.

Davis followed that up with 32 points and 14 rebounds in 39 minutes in Game 2. But it was not just the numbers, it was the way he went about getting them. His performance had shades of Tim Duncan, hints of Hakeem Olajuwon, and it looked like the potential that Davis showed while toiling away on the New Orleans Pelicans during the first few years of his career was blossoming.

Game 3 began with the Heat’s only true center sidelined. Bam Adebayo’s injured shoulder and neck made it impossible for him to play, and it seemed like the type of game in which nobody would be able to step in and slow down one of the most dangerous bigs in the NBA.

But a mix of Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, and sprinkles of Jae Crowder restricted Davis to just nine total shots after he picked up three fouls in the first half and a fourth halfway through the third quarter. He managed just 15 points and five rebounds, and then followed it up with 22 and nine in Game 4.

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Davis had the chance to reach new heights, but being great means being able to perform in the most difficult circumstances. The key thing to remember, however, is that he is still just 27 and only just entering his prime – this might not be the last time we see him in a position to win a Finals MVP.

LeBron James

Nobody has won three Finals MVP awards on three different teams. Nobody.

Some will try to criticise LeBron James’ location movement throughout his career as a way to knock his Greatest Of All Time status, whereas Michael Jordan spent his entire career (if you ignore his 2002 comeback with the Washington Wizards) with the Chicago Bulls.

But every person who features in that debate needs to forge their own path – not everybody can win six Finals MVPs and six championships, just as players will not win 11 championships in 13 seasons in the way Bill Russell did.

The game has changed. Free agency has made the potential of one player winning three Finals MVP awards on three different teams more likely – Kawhi Leonard might have done it this year as well had the LA Clippers reached the pinnacle – but you still have to be great to achieve it, and boast the longevity and varied skill set to adapt to your team and changes in the game.

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James is averaging 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in this year’s Finals. After he stropped off the court at the end of the Lakers’ Game 3 loss, the next contest saw James shoot 50 per cent from the field, 40 per cent from three and go to the free throw line 12 times while scoring 28 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. He dominated when his team slipped. He set the tone to ensure a tough victory in a game that could have gone either way.

Who will win?

James has more experience than anyone in Finals games at this stage.

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It is not unheard of that the Finals MVP does not go to the best player on the team (shout out to Kawhi Leonard in 2014), or even the best player in the series (looking at you in 2015, Andre Iguodala), but unless James collapses in the next few games and Davis steps up in a big way to drag the Lakers over the finish line, history will be made: James will be the first player ever to win three Finals MVPs on three different teams and climb another step up the ladder in the Greatest Of All Time discussion.

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Soccer

Ian Wright and Roy Keane urge end to ‘frustrating, bizarre’ rules and allow fans’ return to football stadiums


Pundits Ian Wright and Roy Keane joined the growing number of voices asking for reconsideration over football fans being allowed back into games.

A petition asking the government to allow supporters to return to games at an open-air stadium passed the 100,000 mark in recent days, meaning a parliamentary debate should take place on the matter.

And the Premier League, FA and EFL other footballing bodies recently sent an open letter to all fans saying they had “demonstrated that we can deliver matches safely” with several test fixtures over the summer.

Meanwhile, clubs are struggling with a lack of revenue, which Keane said on ITV will lead to them going out of business if the situation does not change with regards to fans.

“Clubs will go bust, if you look at the situation [at Wembley] – you can’t tell me there can’t be 10,000 people in there tonight,” he said, labelling the rulings “frustrating and bizarre”.

Ian Wright concurred and said that appropriate measures should be easily put in place to allow a number of supporters into professional football grounds, considering some people are allowed into smaller cultural events.

“I’m very frustrated when you see the size of Wembley and how they can social distance in it.

“People will be worried about the concourses but when you look the measures they are doing [to get media in the ground] – and you’ll have to up that – I can’t understand how people can’t be here.

“When you look at the Albert Hall and cinemas and seeing how they close the curtains – why can’t we get fans back in now? Look at the lower league teams, they are suffering.”

Brighton had a limited number of fans in place for a pre-season game against Chelsea and several Champions League group stage fixtures are set to have a number of home fans in place, where local laws allow – but at present in England that will not be the case.

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Racing

Michael Schumacher tribute to be made by Sebastian Vettel at German Grand Prix

Formula One's Sebastian Vettel is set to pay a tribute to legendary former Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher at this weekend's German Grand Prix.

Little is known of the condition of seven-time F1 world champion Schumacher since a skiing accident in 2013.

But this weekend, Ferrari and Vettel have decided to pay a tribute in Schumacher's homeland.

In a video posted online to Ferrari's Twitter account, Vettel said: "For this weekend's German Grand Prix I will wear a new helmet.

"It doesn't look very different but it actually it is because underneath we will have Michael's [Schumacher] original design from 2006 as a 3D print.

"It's difficult to see from afar, but when you get a little bit closer you can see we have Michael's stars, the Chinese dragon, the signs on the side and Michael's 'MS' logo."

Formula One drivers and fans alike miss the presence of the legendary German around the circuit since his retirement in 2012.

But Vettel and Ferrari hope that this tribute can go some way to reminding fans of Schumacher's exploits in an F1 car.

"It's a small thought, we all miss him. I think racing in Germany is always something special," Vettel continued.


"Thinking of him from his last race here when he won in 2006, the last time he won on German soil.

"It's a nice gesture and I'm looking forward to wearing the helmet this weekend."

Ferrari tweeted out the video with the message "Class act by #Seb5. A special tribute to @Schumacher for this weekend’s #EifelGP in Germany."

Schumacher's son Mick is set to make his Formula One weekend debut at the Eifel Grand Prix as he tries to emulate the success of his father.

Practice for the grand prix is to kick off on Friday, with qualifying on Saturday. The race itself will start at 13.10 BST on Sunday.

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Soccer

Veljko Paunovic interview: Reading boss discusses learning from Diego Simeone, advice from Fernando Torres and more

Veljko Paunovic may have seemed like a left-field appointment for Reading when he arrived at the end of August.

It takes mere seconds into a conversation with him, however, to realise how simple a decision it must have been for the club hierarchy to hand him the job.

The 43-year-old Serb has an extremely-engaging presence. He is cultured, well-travelled and has been on a remarkable journey in his career from Strumica in Yugoslavia (now North Macedonia) to Berkshire – with stops in Spain, Russia, Germany, the USA and more in between.

  • Paunovic wins September award
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Paunovic started his career at Atletico Madrid and played with some incredible players – Christian Vieri, Fernando Torres, Diego Simeone to name a few, and he has managed and been managed by some of the best. But it is his late father – former Yugoslavia international Blagoje Paunovic, who won 39 international caps and was part of the side that got to the final of the European Championships in 1968 – who still inspires him more than anyone else he has crossed paths with, even to this day.

Sadly, Blagoje passed away six years ago aged 67, less than a year before Paunovic managed Serbia U20s to the nation’s first international triumph, winning the World Cup in 2015. It was a fitting tribute from a son to a legendary figure in his home country, and one that still fills him with pride.

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“My father was a great player,” Paunovic tells Sky Sports, after winning the Sky Bet Championship Player of the Month award for September – having led Reading to a perfect start to their league campaign.

Počivaj u miru dragi tata…
RIP.
DEP. pic.twitter.com/cbfUJSI6Tm

“He is the first one I saw. He didn’t see our success but he was definitely the first influence and the biggest one I had.”

Growing up in Yugoslavia in the 1980s and early 1990s was not easy. Football was an escape for Paunovic, even at times when he had to walk four hours to get to training, often on an empty stomach.

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He and his father shared an obsession for football, though, which kept him motivated and driven. He would grow up hearing stories of his time as a player and a manager, and when he was 17 his father helped him get a move to Atletico Madrid so he could fulfil his potential. But for Paunovic Snr it was about so much more than just turning his son into a great player.

“He instilled values in me that I still carry to this day,” continued Paunovic. “Values that are important to be successful in life, not just in football.

“It is about dealing with people and being respected, and I think the most important thing that you can aim for is integrity. That is what I learned from him. He had all those values and I can only tell you how much he impacted people, and how overwhelming the reaction was in Serbia when he passed away.

“I was reached by so many people who told me stories about how he helped them and how he behaved in certain situations. I was very proud and I still am very proud of my father.”

Paunovic began his coaching career by working his way through the Serbia youth teams from 2012 to 2015. Starting with the U18s and finishing with that U20 World Cup win. It was the crowning achievement of his managerial career so far, but he took so much more from it than just that.

Small defeats lead to great victories… pic.twitter.com/Micsl7Beya

For Paunovic, as it was for his father, it is about developing his players as people, too.

“That is a huge part of my philosophy and part of how I measure my achievements,” he says. “It is about seeing how they compete and play, but it’s also how they behave as people, what they say in the media, and how they carry themselves and keep themselves accountable to those values that we instilled in them.

“We started that [with the Serbia youth teams] in 2012 and took it to late 2015. I’m very happy with what we achieved, and I’m always going to look at myself as a coach that educates and impacts people in the best possible way.”

You can tell why Reading’s hierarchy were so taken with Paunovic. And it helps that he has also learned from some of the best. At Atletico Madrid he played under the great Radomir Antic, who gave him the chance to sign for the Spanish club at 17, and as a player he also used to share a room with Simeone.

“Antic gave me the opportunity to have a career in this wonderful sport as a player,” he said. “He pushed me to the professional level.

“Simeone also influenced me a lot and I was so impressed with his passion for the game. In his last season at Atletico we shared a room at various times and he was already preparing himself for coaching. He would note down all the sessions and then discuss them with me.

“I was passionate for coaching but not quite at his level. I was 26 or 27 at the time and he was about 35. He was already preparing.

“We met again a few years ago at an event in Spain and he invited me to see his side train. I would go and watch a lot of sessions and he once said to me, ‘Pauno, everything starts and ends with the player’.

“It is all about how you impact upon your players. I truly believe that’s some of the best advice I ever got.”

A little more back in the present and it seemed as though Paunovic was destined to work his way up and one day become the boss of the senior Serbia national side.

Instead, he opted to move to Chicago Fire in the MLS in 2015, where he stayed for four years.

“Football takes you where it wants,” he said. “I read that in a book about Mauricio Pochettino, and he says that was what he was told by his old coach Jorge Griffa (a legend of Argentinian football), and I took it for me as well.

“If you look at my career as a player and a coach you can see I have travelled a lot around the world. I found a project [at Chicago] with people who were fantastic for my development and very supportive. They gave me the chance to work in a fantastic league that is still growing and expanding, and has incredible resources and potential.

“They mentored me and helped me, and I learned a lot from them. They also guided me and let me make my own decisions and mistakes. That is what I was looking for and I’m very grateful for that. I also led them to one of their best-ever seasons in 2017.”

His experience in the MLS was also a great grounding to help him hit the ground running with Reading. The Championship is considered the most unpredictable league in the world, but if you can deal with what the US continent can throw at you, you can deal with anything.

“In every country the football is different,” said Paunovic. “In every league it is different. It is not just technical things. For example, in the MLS you don’t have relegation so you have to find different ways to motivate your players to reach the goals you have set.

“It is also peculiar playing across a continent. We had a situation where we played in zero degrees in Chicago in early March, then three days later we flew to Florida and played on artificial turf in 30 degrees. Three days later we would be in Colorado playing at altitudes of 2,000m, then we would be back in the Windy City in the cold. I would pay money for those kinds of experiences now because I’ve learned so much.”

Paunovic is a man who never stops educating himself and will never think he knows it all. He is also a big believer in learning from his players, whether it be Bastian Schweinsteiger at Chicago, or a kid from the academy at the Madejski Stadium.

“It was a great honour to work with Schweinsteiger and to coach him,” he says. “He was an absolute leader of the team and I could still learn from him. I even learn from the younger players at Reading now – like Ethan Bristow, who is just 18.

“Coaching is a two-way communication and a relationship, and at the same time as you learn and communicate and teach your players, you also learn from them. They are all unique.

“I think my philosophy has always been the same but I have learned and evolved as a coach. I have more experience now than I did eight years ago when I started, and I think coaching is always a work in progress.

“But one thing I always have and always remind everyone of is that the players are at the centre of my philosophy. I work and build around the player, what he needs, or what he doesn’t need and has to get rid of. I try to create a protective learning environment and a winning environment, and provide all the resources we can to achieve that.”

There is one more player who comes up in conversation whom he learned a lot from, even though he met him as a youngster while he was in the latter stages of his career at Atletico.

“I enjoyed playing with great players my whole career,” he said. “But I had a very close relationship with Fernando Torres. He was just starting out when I was at Atletico and in him I saw a better version of me. A WAY better version!

“I keep in touch with him now and he called me a few weeks ago when I got the job at Reading to catch up and give me some advice.”

And what was that advice? Paunovic answers with a smile…

“He said be careful of the media! I’m joking, of course. He said to just be yourself, that’s the most important thing.”

There is no doubt that Paunovic is exactly that. Reading look to have landed themselves a gem.

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