Football: `Tough day for the grey-hair brigade

This weekend's matches could have tonsorial implications for several managers. Phil Shaw takes a look at the games which carry the danger of premature ageing.
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The Independent Online
Fabrizio Ravanelli is to return from Italy following the failure of transfer talks with Milan, but not in time to ease Middlesbrough's injury woes as they play host to a Birmingham City team vying for the First Division leadership.

Bryan Robson said that Ravanelli had assured him he would be back at the Riverside Stadium next week. The Boro manager will then discuss the player's position with the chairman, Steve Gibson. Today, Robson welcomes back Paul Merson, who missed the Coca-Cola Cup defeat of Barnet, but could be without as many as 10 players.

Ravanelli does not belong to the "grey hair club", which would be surprising had Kevin Keegan not coined the expression to describe the effects of management. Chris Kamara, who has yet to display the outward symptoms, currently sits on top of the table but could find his Bradford City side not even in the play-off zone by the time they play at Charlton tomorrow.

Kamara will take keen interest in West Brom v Swindon, the clubs directly below Bradford. A draw would suit him nicely, although they have not managed one in seven meetings at The Hawthorns.

Two of the more literally-minded members of Keegan's club face especially important fixtures. Peter Reid's Sunderland, having highlighted the volatility of the section by winning 4-0 at Bradford and 1-0 at Birmingham, now receive a Wolves side themselves only three points off pole position.

Mike Walker, who saw Norwich leak four goals without reply at home to Charlton in midweek, has the onerous task of trying to halt Manchester City's mini-revival.

The Norwich manager looks a model of security compared with Stockport's Gary Megson and Huddersfield's Brian Horton. Their teams, occupying the bottom two places and without a League win, face each other at Edgeley Park, where the natives are reportedly restless.

Bruce Grobbelaar is in line for his Oxford debut against Sheffield United, 48 hours after the FA charged him with breaking its rules on betting.

Chris Waddle could be forgiven for wishing he had joined Nottingham Forest last spring. Burnley have provided a nightmarish start to what few doubted would be a glittering career in management - one goal in seven Second Division games - although history offers hope today.

Forty-nine derbies with Preston at Turf Moor have not produced a 0-0 draw. What's more, Waddle has a new striker - Gerry Creaney, on loan from Manchester City - while Preston conceded six at Blackburn in the week. It may not quite be time to reach for the Grecian 2000.

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