Nasty boys must go if City are to succeed

ROBERTO Mancini smiled in the face of adversity on Sunday evening, warning journalists that if he did sell Mario Balotelli in the summer, they would lose a major source of news stories as well as a supremely talented young footballer.

The Premier League might also lose a supremely talented young footballer – assuming, of course, that no English club would risk spending cash on the player Jose Mourinho described as “unmanageable”.

But if ditching Balotelli means protecting opponents from leg-breaking challenges like the one Arsenal’s Alex Song was fortunate to survive, then good riddance. Let him wreak havoc somewhere else.

I’ve joked in the past about football’s enfant terrible but when you see him recklessly waving his studs around as if they were a feather duster, then all the japes, all the so-called scrapes that have made him such a colourful character are no longer a source of amusement.

It’s no laughing matter when an opponent’s career is in jeopardy when Balotelli loses it.

If Mancini is to have any credibility as a manager he should make it his first job this summer, provided he survives the axe himself, to dump the young Italian.

And the second would be to get rid of that other nasty piece of work Carlos Tevez.

Then he might just start fashioning a squad capable of challenging his quiet but enduringly successful Manchester neighbours.

Lennon should keep Celtic title in perspective

NEIL Lennon has had so much to endure in his two-year tenure as manager of Celtic that he can’t be blamed for celebrating the Hoops’ championship success.

Vile sectarian abuse, a pitchside attack and death threats, including bombs and bullets in the post . . . unreal.

Lennon has admitted battling depression since 2000, so he had good reason to wear his green and white scarf with pride as Celtic secured their first Scottish Premier League title since 2008 with a 6-0 win at Kilmarnock on Saturday.

He deserved his champagne moment, but he got a bit carried away at one point when he gave the media cause to rank him alongside the managerial “greats” when he said: “I feel vindicated. I felt as if I was on probation. Now I feel the Celtic manager.”

Well, he is and has been since he was appointed caretaker in March 2010 and, as headstrong as he has been at times, he has had no reason to think otherwise. But he should keep a sense of perspective.

Celtic have walked the league – they are 18 points clear after the weekend’s round of games with five still to play.

But come on, their nearest, in fact their only, rivals Rangers are in meltdown: they are in the maelstrom of a financial crisis that threatens their future existence and which cost them 10 points when they went into administration in February.

Yet they still stand eight points clear of third-placed Motherwell, illustrating yet again that the SPL is, nearly always was, and probably always will be a two-horse race.

Celtic can’t be held responsible for the crisis at Ibrox, of course, and they will feel they have deserved their title success. But when their Old Firm rivals have been playing with one hand tied behind their backs, their victory, I’m afraid, must be seen as a hollow one.

FA need to appoint a boss soon

IN case you had forgotten, England still doesn’t have a football manager worthy of the title.

We’ve understandably been pre-occupied in this neck of the woods recently, what with the Fabrice Muamba crisis, the continuing battle for Premier League survival and, on our doorsteps, Manchester being the focus of one of the most astonishing turnarounds in title-chasing history.

Nevertheless, there are just 58 days to go to the start of the European Championships and it’s now 63 since Fabio Capello walked away in the wake of the John Terry captaincy controversy. And the Football Association appears to be no nearer appointing a replacement.

Stuart Pearce is currently minding the shop but he is nothing more than a stop-gap.

But for how long? I can understand the FA being cautious not to upset the Tottenham applecart and naming Harry Redknapp – the overwhelming favourite. But if he’s the man they want, then they should come to some understanding with Spurs.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be surprised if Harry was having serious reservations about working for that lot.

All they are doing with their dillying and dallying is allowing things to drift. And when a business is allowed to drift, its performance invariably deteriorates.

I don’t care whether the suits have effectively given up on the Euros and are focusing on more long-term ambitions, England are still a major force in Europe and, as such, we have a duty to ourselves and UEFA to perform to the best of our ability in Poland and Ukraine. Whoever is going to be in charge there needs as much time as possible to prepare.

This is the England manager’s job we are talking about here – the most important national sporting role.

It’s time the FA stopped prevaricating and took some firm and decisive action. Then we’d all know where we were up to.