Belfast Telegraph

Hodgson apologies for armband strop

West Brom head coach Roy Hodgson has apologised after he threw away an armband worn in memory of late Albion legend Ray Barlow during Sunday's 3-1 defeat to Newcastle

Hodgson was seen to tear off the armband and throw it to the ground after the Magpies scored their third goal at the Hawthorns.

Hodgson said: "It is something I did without thinking out of pure frustration at conceding the third goal. I meant no disrespect by it to such a great player, nor his family, and offer my sincere apologies if it has caused offence."

A minute's applause was held before Sunday's game in honour of Barlow, who made 482 appearances for Albion between 1944 and 1960 and passed away earlier this month at the age of 85.

Meanwhile, Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has played down his side's hopes of securing Champions League football despite closing the gap on Tottenham to five points.

Goals from Papiss Cisse (2) and Hatem Ben Arfa enabled the Magpies to move level on points with fifth-placed Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League before Shane Long's second-half consolation effort, but Pardew believes Newcastle are not well enough equipped to overhaul one of the top four.

Pardew said: "Are we Champions League contenders? I don't think so. The last 10 games are the most important ones in any season and we've won the first two of those. There are a lot of games left, a lot of points. But I don't think we've got the depth of squad to challenge for that (a Champions League place)."

Ben Arfa, who set up Cisse's two goals, was the official man of the match and Pardew believes he is a reformed character worth a place in the France squad.

He said: "There are not many players who can do what he can do and it might be a nice wild card for France to have him in the squad. He really has knuckled down and there is a much more controlled person in his manner and the way he is around the training ground.

"I can say that publicly so it registers with the French manager. In the past in France there was some reputation that he was an 'enfant terrible' but not here. He has been immaculate and especially this season he has really kind of focused and got his mind set in a good place."

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