FRED EYRE is the self-confessed Manchester City "nut" whose devotion survived a free transfer after he had been the club's first-ever apprentice, but today his professional interest is in helping the FA Cup semi-finalists Sheffield United to accelerate City's slide towards third-grade football.
Eyre, now the chief scout for United, became a cult author in Northern sporting circles with the publication of Kicked Into Touch in 1981. The book hilariously chronicled the life and times of a failed footballer (20-odd clubs but only one League appearance, for Bradford Park Avenue in a 5-0 stuffing by Swansea).
Willie Donachie's inside knowledge of United could help to counter Eyre's reports. Barely a month after he gave up coaching them to become Joe Royle's No 2 at City, the Scot followed Joe Mercer and Howard Kendall in being involved in the management of both clubs. Kendall, coincidentally, left each of them for Everton, where his deputy is another who served Blues and Blades alike, Adrian Heath.
David White and Michel Vonk, once Heath's colleagues at Maine Road, are now on the Bramall Lane books, while Paul Beesley (currently on loan to West Bromwich) made the reverse trip. Others who played for both clubs include Brian Gayle, Jamie Hoyland, Carl Bradshaw, Alan Harper, Ken McNaught, Simon Tracey and the striker whose misheard surname sparked a craze among City fans for for waving blow-up bananas, Imre Varadi.
Ten things that Forest's Dutchman Pierre van
might be missing
1 Biking to work. The Netherlands has more cycle paths per square mile than any other European country.
2 The cafe society of Amsterdam, although it has been said that a bad afternoon at the City Ground is similar to an afternoon in a coffee shop. Both render you strangely numbed and crying with hysterical laughter.
3A night in the Leidseplein entertainment district of Amsterdam. Safer and less seedy than a Saturday in Nottingham.
5 The Alkmaar cheese market on Fridays.
7 The world's largest garden, at Keukenhof. Like Forest, its beauty is said to be an enigma. Unlike Forest, it attracts 800,000 in the eight weeks per year that it is open.
8 Pottering around in Delft, home of the Netherland's china industry.
10 Dykes. Forest may find one useful if they return to the Premiership and want to avoid shipping goals and going straight back down again.
NAME OF THE GAME
No 27: THE GABLE ENDIES
Few clubs have a nickname as unlikely as Montrose's, but the derivation of the name is less than romantic. The Scottish Third Division club are so called because of a style of house building popular in the town.
On 22 March last year, Sunderland met Nottingham Forest. The match finished 1-1, leaving Forest 19th in the Premiership and Sunderland three places higher.
While the sides were both happy to have come away with a point, they were envious of their then fellow strugglers (and current fellow high- flyers) Middlesbrough, who beat Chelsea 1-0 to take all three points in their game and move clear of the relegation zone.
Chelsea, who meet Boro in the Coca-Cola Cup final next week, may take heed from another event this week last year. Liverpool reached the semi- final of the Cup-Winners' Cup. "Liverpool back in the European big time," said one headline, somewhat prematurely.
When England play Switzerland in a friendly international next week it will be their first visit to Berne for 44 years.
The last time the two sides met in the Wankdorf Stadium was in the 1954 World Cup. It was England's second pool game, following a 4-4 draw with Belgium, and a 2-0 victory over the home side guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals (in which England lost 4-2 to Uruguay).
One lesson Glenn Hoddle might like to draw from the 1954 game is that losing players through injury or illness need not be a bad thing. Stanley Matthews and Nat Lofthouse had to pull out on that occasion but their replacements, the Wolves pair of Jimmy Mullen and Dennis Wilshaw, went on to score England's two goals.
THis WEEK'S TRANSFERS
Free transfers or undisclosed fees unless stated
Jamie Pollock (midfielder) Bolton to Manchester City (pounds 800,000)
Danny Mills (defender) Norwich to Charlton (pounds 250,000)
Tony Scully (midfielder) Manchester City to Queen's Park Rangers (pounds 150,000)
Steve Davis (defender) Barnsley to Oxford Utd (pounds 75,000)
Neville Southall (goalkeeper) Everton to Stoke
Vince Bartram (goalkeeper) Arsenal to Gillingham
Lee Makel (midfielder) Huddersfield to Hearts
Ian Baraclough (defender) Notts County to Queen's Park Rangers
Matthew Brazier (defender) Queen's Park Rangers to Fulham
Ben Sedgemore (midfielder) Mansfield to Macclesfield
Paul Stephenson (forward) York to Hartlepool
Steve Tutill (defender) York to Darlington
Adrian Littlejohn (forward) Plymouth to Oldham
Phil Starbuck (forward) Oldham to Plymouth
Mike Pollitt (goalkeeper) Notts County to Sunderland
Martin Nielsen (midfielder) FC Copenhagen (Den) to Huddersfield
Jorg Sobiech (defender) NEC Nijmegen (Neth) to Stoke
Paddy Connolly (forward) Airdrie to St Johnstone
Allan Moore (forward) Dunfermline to Livingston
Ronnie Wallwork (defender) Manchester Utd to Stockport
Steve Guinan (forward) Nottingham Forest to Crewe
Andy Hughes (midfielder) Oldham to Notts County
Steve Wright (defender) Rangers to Wolves
Rae Ingram (defender) Manchester City to Macclesfield
Martin Phillips (forward) Manchester City to Exeter
Ray Kelly (midfielder) Manchester City to Viking Stavanger (Nor)
Gaetano Giallanza (forward) Nantes to Bolton (trial)
Contributors: Phil Shaw, Nick Harris, Paul Newman
Readers' contributions welcome. Send to Sidelines, Sports Desk, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL
e-mail address: sport @ independent.co.uk