Football: Collymore casts another shadow

Bolton Wanderers 0 Aston Villa 1
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Bolton Wanderers 0 Aston Villa 1

The thing about Stan Collymore is that he is a walking soap opera. Good looking, enigmatic, talented, infuriating, he is all those things a casting director is looking for. No one could accuse him of melting into the background. Far fetched the plot may be, boring never.

Take Saturday. This match would have been booked into the memory banks with the label "not worth recalling" attached to it when, bang, Collymore suddenly lost it. Bang being the operative word, because the Aston Villa striker turned round and mistook Andy Todd for a punch bag.

Within seconds blows were flying and if the players had not formed a peace mound of bodies, Match of the Day could have been confused with an early transmission of the Lennox Lewis fight. For a man who has fallen out with the press and is refusing to talk to them, Collymore has a happy knack of creating headlines.

Which left his manager to explain another twist in the saga of football's one-man Neighbours. "Here we go again," Brian Little groaned as he was invited to comment on his pounds 7m striker. Yes, he was a prat (he did not actually say that but that is what he meant), yes, he would be punished and, no, he did not want to talk about it.

He prefered to dwell on Villa's victory, the fact that his players had been wearied by their Uefa Cup efforts in midweek and that Savo Milosevic, who could scowl for Yugoslavia, is walking round like Mr Happy since he scored goals in successive matches. "At half-time the players really wanted the game to be over, he said. "We're 1-0 up, that'll do, we'll go home now."

We all might have done because apart from Milosevic's goal - a strong header into the top corner from Fernando Nelson's cross - and a glorious second-half move that culminated in Collymore firing fractions wide, the match was a bore. Villa were the first team to win at the Reebok Stadium, Collymore the second after Nathan Blake against Gary Pallister to get the judges' verdict on points.

Collymore did little else but, when Little was drawn to talk on the centre of attention, it was to praise him. "When I was a forward people would come up to me after a game and ask why didn't you do this, why didn't you do that? I'd say `I don't think you saw how many runs I made or how many times I set others up'. I appreciate what Stan, Dwight Yorke and Savo do. They're doing okay."

So Collymore could go, flea in ear, to join England's party for the Italy match next week, which was a distraction Andy Todd did not have. Still living with his parents, he had a Saturday night to come where he had explain himself to his dad, which would be bad enough in any circumstance but, when he is the manager, doubly so.

You could imagine the thought processes that the 23-year-old defender had gone through as Colllymore reacted to having his shirt pulled in the last minute. Ouch. I musn't retaliate. Ouch. Dad's watching. Ouch. Oh sod it.

"He probably won't come home tonight," Colin Todd said. "He'd had a very good game until them but if you raise your hand, you don't give the referee any option but to send you off. He will be dealt with internally, as Nathan Blake was after the Manchester United game.

"I never talk to him about football at home. If I ever have him in the office, I always have a member of staff in there, too. He's treated exactly the same as all the other players." What about his mum? "She'll have words," he replied. "She's the one who'll get some sense out of him."

Goal: Milosevic (12) 0-1.

Bolton Wanderers (4-3-1-2): Branagan; Bergsson, Todd, Taggart, Whitlow; Frandsen, Thompson, Sellars; Beardsley; Holdsworth, McGinlay (Gunnlaugsson, 79). Substitutes not used: Pollock, Phillips, Ward (gk), McAnespie.

Aston Villa (3-4-1-2): Bosnich; Ehiogu, Staunton (Scimeca, h-t), Southgate; Nelson (Charles 68), Taylor, Grayson, Wright; Yorke; Collymore, Milosevic (Curcic, 84). Substitutes not used: Oakes (gk), Draper.

Bookings: Bolton: Sellars, Thompson; Aston Villa: Yorke.

Sendings off: Bolton: Todd; Aston Villa: Collymore.

Referee: G Poll (Tring).

Man of the match: Thompson.

Attendance: 24,196.