Football: Kinkladze keen to play despite crash

NATIONWIDE LEAGUE PREVIEW

Perhaps an announcement that Alan Ball was about to return would have sent greater shudders through Manchester City supporters, but only that. When Georgi Kinkladze was involved in a car crash on Tuesday night, Maine Road held its collective breath.

The 23-year-old Georgian has been the only thing to make the last three seasons palatable for City supporters. As Francis Lee, the chairman, said: "Having him injured is the last thing we need but we are all so grateful he is not seriously hurt."

Kinkladze had 30 stitches inserted in his back but, surprisingly might appear against Oxford United today. "Gio is really keen to play," his manager, Frank Clark, said, "but we want to take a look at him before making a decision."

City's enthusiasm to have Kinkladze back is underlined by his contribution in the corresponding fixture last season when he scored twice in a 4- 1 victory, although who Clark will leave out is less clear. Jeff Whitley, his replacement in the 1-0 win over Crewe on Wednesday, was voted man of the match while Chris Greenacre, making his debut, scored.

Things are never dull at Maine Road - and Bury is hardly boring either. Earlier in the season the players refused to do any promotional work until a creche was provided and this week there was a mini-revolt over the hotel bill for last weekend's trip to Ipswich.

That came out of the players' Christmas party fund and manager Stan Ternent had to offer to repay the money from his own wages to maintain team spirit. That was declined, but the club will pay for last night's accommodation ahead of today's game at Norwich. As for a meal: "It'll be soup and sandwiches as usual," Ternent said.

Gary Walsh will start in goal for Bradford City against West Bromwich after completing a pounds 500,000 move from Middlesbrough while Manchester United's full-back John O'Kane could make his debut after joining City on loan.

Nottingham Forest are expected to name an unchanged side against Crewe and Neil Maddison will make his Middlesbrough debut against Wolves after a pounds 250,000 move from Southampton.

Sunderland are likely to stick with a back four of Jody Craddock, Darren Williams, Darren Holloway and Michael Gray against Stockport - even though their average age is just 21. They will face a striker who flopped at Roker Park but whose goals have pushed County into 12th place.

Brett Angell has scored eight times in 11 First Division games this season compared to nought in 10 while he was at Sunderland. "Things didn't turn out the way I wanted at Roker Park," he said. "It was very frustrating but I have no bitterness towards the club."

- Guy Hodgson

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