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‘Invincible’ all-girl football team goes whole season unbeaten – in boys’ league | UK News

An all-girl team has become football’s latest “invincibles” by going unbeaten all season – while playing in a boys’ league.

Queens Park Ladies under-12s finished top of division three of the Bournemouth Youth Football League, with 18 wins, four draws and no defeats.

They dominated the 11 boys’ teams in the league, scoring 61 goals and conceding only 11.

By the time they had played all their matches, they had amassed 58 points, 16 more than the second-placed team, which had two games still to play.

To make their triumph all the sweeter, they had to overcome initial resistance from county FA bosses, who initially told them they would have to play in a girls’ competition.

Pic: Queens Park Ladies
The under-12s team celebrates winning the league. Pic: Queens Park Ladies

Manager Toby Green was convinced his team was good enough to play against boys every week and the players, who train twice a week, have proved him right on the pitch.

Next season, the girls will be promoted to the under-13s second division.

They topped the league away against Moordown & Southbourne several weeks ago but clinched the “invincibles” title last weekend with a 3-0 win against Lymington Town.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Green said: “The girls have done really, really well. They’ve worked so hard all season, not just in the games, but in their training as well.

“They have been really disciplined… they deserve it.”

Pic: Queens Park Ladies
Pic: Queens Park Ladies

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Mr Green said securing the league title with a 3-0 away win against a team that had won six games in a row was one of the highlights of the season.

“We’ve really had to dig in, particularly away from home,” he said.

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Four of the girls in the 14-strong squad have been playing together since they were five years old.

Mr Green started the team when his daughter Olivia told him she wanted to play football. He had already coached his older daughter as the only girl in a boys’ team and decided this time he would put together a girls’ team, but wanted them to play in the boys’ league.

The team hopes to inspire more young girls to get involved in football.

Aston Villa v Legia Warszawa: Police officers injured after clashes involving fans of Polish team outside Villa Park | UK News

Three police officers have been injured following disorder outside Aston Villa’s ground in Birmingham ahead of a Europa Conference League match.

The violence was reported at Villa Park ahead of a match between Aston Villa and Legia Warszawa, West Midlands Police said.

Away fans were prevented from entering the stadium after objects were thrown at officers, the force said.

The visiting fans were held in the coach park near the ground.

Stewards also removed several people believed to be away supporters from the home stands during the match, while footage on social media appeared to show objects being thrown into the stadium from outside.

Police attempt to put out flares that have thrown towards them outside the stadium before the UEFA Europa Conference League Group E match at Villa Park, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday November 30, 2023.
Police attempt to put out flares thrown towards them outside the stadium

Police attempt to put out flares that have thrown towards them outside the stadium before the UEFA Europa Conference League Group E match at Villa Park, Birmingham. Picture date: Thursday November 30, 2023.

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Police told followers on X: “We’re currently unable to allow away fans into Villa Park following disorder outside the stadium which has seen missiles thrown at officers.

“Three officers have already been injured & a significant policing operation continues. Please avoid Witton Lane where possible.”

In a statement, Legia said their official delegation, owner and president refused to enter Villa Park in solidarity with their supporters, while they also complained about the ticketing situation.

Aston Villa and Legia went into the match neck-and-neck at the top of Group E in the Europa Conference League.

The eight group winners automatically go through to the last 16 of the competition, while the eight runners-up go into a play-off with the third-ranked teams from the Europa League groups.

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s Top Gear co-host ‘proud’ show team ‘kept everything quiet’ after test track crash | Ents & Arts News

Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff’s Top Gear co-host has praised the team behind the programme for keeping the details of the cricket star’s test track crash out of the public eye.

Chris Harris said on BBC Breakfast today that the former England cricket captain is still recovering from his injuries but is “healing”.

Flintoff, 45, was taken to hospital after he was hurt while filming Top Gear at its test track at Dunsfold Aerodrome last December.

He had facial injuries when he appeared in public for the first time with England’s cricket team in September, nine months afterwards.

Harris, who joined Top Gear in 2016, said of his co-star: “I think he’s healing.

“It was a serious incident. I’m not going to say any more than that.

“As I’ve said in the book and in the few interviews I’ve given, I’m so proud of the fact that team Top Gear kept everything quiet and we were dignified.

“There is nothing out there about what happened and there won’t be. There’s no mole in the organisation. I’m really, really proud of that.

“As long as he’s healing, it’s great to see him out and about being passionate about cricket.

“I’m sad I’m not doing Top Gear with him at the moment, but that’s life.

“It’s the best thing for him right now.”

Top Gear presenters Freddie Flintoff, Paddy McGuinness and Chris Harris. PA Photo/BBC/Lee Brimble.
Chris Harris (pictured, right) said: ‘I think he’s healing. It was a serious incident’

Filming on the series was halted following the incident.

Flintoff’s son, Corey, said at the time that he was “lucky to be alive” and described it as a “pretty nasty crash”.

The BBC said in October it had agreed a financial settlement with the injured presenter following his crash – reported to be worth £9m.

Both Flintoff and the BBC were “satisfied” with the agreement, according to The Sun, which also quoted a “show insider” who said there was “no way it [Top Gear] could continue”.

A BBC spokesperson said last month: “A decision on the timing of future Top Gear shows will be made in due course with BBC Content.”

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Flintoff in September

‘I had nothing to do’ – Harris

Discussing the impact the crash had on his own life, Harris told the BBC: “I suddenly had nothing to do.

“I have got another business, which is an online car platform which is great. I do stuff there.

“But my day job went and you can imagine your muscle memory of working life is really important – you guys have your routines – if that suddenly stops and suddenly you don’t talk to those people, you don’t see those people, then you go into a slightly dark place. I think I really missed it.”

He added: “It does make you reflect on the times that it might have gone wrong, maybe.

“And that made me think I’ve got responsibilities. I’ve got children. Have I been reckless?

“The answer is I don’t think I have. But I did have moments I thought ‘have I pushed this too far’?

“Also, I’m old and I don’t bounce the way I used to. When you’re 25, you bounce nicely. Later you don’t bounce so well. It’s all about bouncing.”

The Tories are struggling in the polls. Can Team Rishi turn things around before the next election? | Politics News

As Rishi Sunak prepares to launch his re-election pitch from the stage in Manchester this week, it’s worth remembering that this time last year, the now prime minister – and many of his supporters – were put out to pasture and didn’t even bother to turn up for the annual Tory jamboree.

Those who did looked on with widening eyes at the accelerating car crash of the Liz Truss premiership, as her mini-budget began to unravel in real time at party conference (remember the panicked decision to U-turn on cutting the top rate tax no sooner than conference kicked off), with her administration’s complete collapse coming less than three weeks later.

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Truss’ time as PM, one year on

It is a chapter of Conservative history that Rishi Sunak has sought to put right – spending his first year as PM trying to steady the ship and bring an air of competence and professionalism to government. There is no doubt that the tenor and tone of what could well be the final party conference before a general election will be a world away from the last.

But when it comes to the fundamentals, has that much changed? If you measure politics in its most brutal sense as victory at the ballot box, the answer is not much. The Conservatives were experiencing their worst polling since the last 1990s this time last year. Look at our Sky News poll tracker now, and you can see average support for the party is pretty much the same – about 26%. It’s barely shifted at all.

To make matters worse, Mr Sunak – who will look in his leader’s speech to the country to cast himself as the heir of Thatcher – goes to conference as the Conservative prime minister who is presiding over anything but a Thatcherite economy.

The tax burden is on course to rise by more in this Conservative parliament than during any other since the Second World War, according to analysis released by the Institute of Fiscal Studies on the eve of conference. It will rise from 33% of national income to 37% by next year. A record leap that sees families and businesses paying more than £100bn extra in tax by next year compared with the last election, it has left many Tory MPs in despair and angry at the Sunak approach to the economy.

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Taxes are rising to near historic highs

The Sunak message will be that, during the pandemic, he had to do things and spend public money in a way that didn’t come naturally to him. He will argue he is a Thatcherite in both his personal work ethic and philosophy – an instinctive tax cutter and small-state Conservative, but is doing the hard work now – growing the economy, halving inflation – to reap the rewards later.

But his detractors are quietly fulminating. As one put it to me this week: “This heir to Thatcher business, it’s concocted vacuous stuff he’s come up with – ‘she grew up in a small shop, I [Sunak] grew up in a pharmacy’. Why didn’t he do that last year in a leadership campaign?”

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Truss ‘tried to fatten and slaughter the pig’

And if the message is stick to the plan and reap the rewards, there are some who have missed the memo. Divisions will surface on “economy day” as Liz Truss, Dame Priti Patel and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg appear at the Great British Growth rally on Monday.

“The tax burden is now a 70-year high. That is unsustainable. And the people that pay the taxes are hard pressed Brits around the country,” former home secretary Dame Priti Patel told GB News on Friday as she insisted taxes had to come down. “As Conservatives, we believe in lower taxes. As Conservatives, we believe being on the side of hard-working households and families. As Conservatives, we believe in hope and aspiration.”

Poor polling and anxiety over the tax burden make for a tricky backdrop. Team Rishi insist that they can turn it around in the coming months, and the contour of that plan is taking shape.

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‘Not right to impose costs on people’

On net zero, the PM is trying to drill dividing lines between the Conservatives and Labour over environmental policies. He will use conference to position himself on the side of the motorist as he looks to further mine the advantage he gained in the Uxbridge by-election over taxing polluting diesel cars.

The fanning of the immigration flames – with Home Secretary Suella Braverman threatening to withdraw from the ECHR last week – is helpful to a prime minister who is looking to win back lapsed 2019 Conservative voters and regroup on the right.

His team see a narrow path to victory with all pivots on economic recovery, coupled with the message “we’re back on track, don’t risk Labour” and winning back voters over core issues – environment, immigration – to narrow the polls (someone told me that 14% of lapsed Conservative 2019 voters have moved to Reform, get a chunk back and the gap begins to close).

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“I wouldn’t bet against us to turn it around in the coming months,” said one No 10 insider. “Rishi genuinely believes he can make it better for the country and get into the best possible position for an election next year. Seeing how politics has changed over the past one, two years, I wouldn’t bet against us being able to turn it around. We have got to be the party of change.”

But the huge problem for Mr Sunak is that voters seem to have tuned out. He has been in No 10 for a year, and still the polls are unchanged. This conference, likely the last before an election, is his final chance to capture attention and start to regain voters’ ears.

But he has a problem too with a party that is in despair. While No 10 were pleased that the net zero announcements didn’t spark at backlash from pro-green One Nation Conservatives, the right of the party is restive over economy and waiting for the prime minister to placate them on spending and tax cuts. One figure suggested to me this weekend that Mr Sunak might use the cancellation of the Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 as a way of finding room for manoeuvre when it comes to promises on tax.

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Labour: ‘We want HS2 to go ahead’

Closing the gap with Labour is the goal for now as speculation grows around whether it will be a May or October election. (If it’s May you can run it with the local elections and not risk a small boats summer crisis or a vote in the autumn after a local election wipeout – but the PM might just want to hold out.)

But away from the No 10 bunker, and even his most ardent backers think the best Mr Sunak can achieve is holding Labour back from an outright majority.

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As for some of his more seasoned MPs, they are resigned to what they see is their fate: “Instinctively, I don’t feel that we can win. This feels like a damage limitation project.”

Manchester will be the acid test as to whether Mr Sunak can shift the momentum.

Channel crossings: Facebook and TikTok team up with police to crack down on people smugglers | UK News

Facebook, TikTok and Twitter will team up with UK law enforcement to crack down on posts by people smugglers encouraging migrants to cross the English Channel, the government says.

Rishi Sunak, who has made cutting the number of small boats arriving on UK shores one of his “five pledges”, said the new partnerships with various social media companies will tackle attempts to “lure” people into paying to make the perilous journey.

Group discounts, free spaces for children and offers of false documents are among the posts the prime minister wants removed to help achieve his promise to “stop the boats”.

Nearly 15,000 people have made the dangerous trip across the Dover Strait in small boats so far this year, according to official data compiled and analysed by Sky News.

This is around 15% less than the same time last year, the data suggests.

The voluntary partnership between social media firms and the National Crime Agency will seek to redirect people away from such content in the same way as is used to tackle content promoting extremism or eating disorders.

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Plans to house asylum seekers in tents

Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, as well as TikTok and X, formally known as Twitter, have all signed up to the plans, Downing Street said.

More on Migrant Crossings

It comes as controversy over plans to house asylum seekers on the Bibby Stockholm barge continues.

Mr Sunak said: “To stop the boats, we have to tackle the business model of vile people smugglers at source.

“That means clamping down on their attempts to lure people into making these illegal crossings and profit from putting lives at risk.

“This new commitment from tech firms will see us redouble our efforts to fight back against these criminals, working together to shut down their vile trade.”

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Labour said the action was “too little, too late” and the Liberal Democrats said it amounted to “tinkering around the edges”.

Kicking off a “small boats week” of linked announcements, Number 10 said the “legacy” backlog of asylum applications made before the end of June 2022 has been reduced by a third since December.

But Labour claimed it will take until 2036 to clear the existing backlog for removals of failed asylum seekers, with nearly 40,000 people awaiting removal in the latest figures.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said it was “just deluded” for the Conservatives to “boast about progress on tackling the Tories’ asylum chaos”.

Hannah Dingley: Forest Green Rovers appoint first woman to take charge of men’s professional football team | UK News

Forest Green Rovers have named Hannah Dingley as their caretaker manager – making her the first woman to take charge of a senior professional men’s team in England.

She replaces former Everton striker Duncan Ferguson as manager of the League Two side and takes the reins with immediate effect.

Dingley said: “I’m really excited for this next step of my career. Pre-season has just begun, and the full season kicks off very soon. It’s an exciting time in football.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to step up and lead such a progressive and forward-thinking club.”

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Dingley joined Forest Green Rovers as a coach four years ago and has been in charge of the club’s academy.

She remains the only woman in charge of a men’s English Football League academy after she was appointed to the role in 2019.

During her tenure at the club, Dingley also initiated the launch of the club’s girls academy in 2021 which develops female players – mirroring the men’s set-up.

Forest Green Rovers chairman Dale Vince said: “Hannah was the natural choice for us, to be first team interim coach – she’s done a fantastic job leading our academy and is well aligned with the values of the club. It’s perhaps telling for the men’s game that in making this appointment on merit, we’ll break new ground – and Hannah will be the first female head coach in English (men’s) football.”

West Brom women’s team switch from white shorts to navy to ‘focus on performance without added anxiety’ of periods | UK News

West Bromwich Albion’s women’s team will switch to navy shorts to get rid of the anxiety of having to wear white while on their period.

They will wear the new home kit for the rest of the season and beyond after consultation with the whole squad.

Captain Hannah George praised the club for supporting the change to darker coloured shorts.

“Representing the club professionally and looking smart in the kit is really important to us,” she said.

“This change will help us to focus on our performance without added concerns or anxiety.”

Albion play in the Northern Premier division of the FA Women’s National League, the third tier of the game.

Head coach Jenny Sugarman said it was important to make any change, no matter how small, to help her players perform at their best.

“I’m proud the club have supported the decision to switch to navy shorts for our female players,” she said.

“It’s another sign of the continued integration of the women’s team across the club and recognition of a progressive and inclusive culture.”

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The change comes after England’s Euro-winning team raised similar concerns over the colour of their own shorts.

Beth Mead said in July: “It is very nice to have an all-white kit but sometimes it’s not practical when it’s the time of the month. We have discussed it as a team and we have fed that back to Nike.”

There’s also been talk about the issue with regards to Wimbledon’s strict all-white kit policy, with a small group protesting outside the club ahead of the women’s final this year.

Former Olympic tennis champion Monica Puig has also tweeted about the “mental stress” of wearing white at the tournament and “praying not to have your period during those two weeks”.