Football: Collymore urged to `get his act together'

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The Independent Online
STAN COLLYMORE, the Aston Villa record signing who has thus far failed to live up to expectations, hopes to end six months of injury problems this weekend by playing against Sheffield Wednesday.

Collymore's return is being seen by some as his last chance to rescue his career. "He is in the last-chance saloon," said Barry Fry, the man who gave Collymore his break when he signed him for Southend from Crystal Palace six years ago. From Southend, the striker moved to Nottingham Forest and then Liverpool and Villa.

Fry, now the manager of Peterborough, believes Collymore has to change his ways after a meagre eight-goal return in his first season with Villa - and then the Paris bar assault on his then girlfriend, Ulrika Jonsson.

Collymore has not started a match since the Uefa Cup quarter-final against Atletico Madrid and has been out of action with groin and thigh injuries. But even when fit for a short spell at the end of last season, he found himself unable to regain his place, with Julian Joachim preferred up front.

The Villa manager John Gregory's patience had worn thin after the Jonsson affair and the player was called in early for pre-season training. Now the striker is set to face the Owls after being ruled out of the opening two matches against Everton and Middlesbrough.

Fry said: "Being called back into training a week early to work on your own was the Villa manager's way of making an example of Stan. It doesn't matter whether you cost pounds 7m or seven pence. Gregory is not going to stand for anything less than 150 per cent from his players.

"The fact that Stan was dropped at the end of last season was bad enough but to then attack his girlfriend was terrible. I'm sure he regrets that now but it did nothing to help him. Villa and his agent (Paul Stretford) have helped him - but now Stan has to help himself.

"He has had a bad time on and off the field and has to pull it around in a major way. It's the last-chance saloon for him.

"Twelve months ago, he was the golden boy with 40,000 Villa fans willing him to score goals. Now he has to win everybody over."

At least with the departure of Dwight Yorke, Collymore faces no competition for places up front. But Fry believes the striker must also win the battle inside his head.

"If he puts his mind to the business everyone knows what he is capable of" said Fry. "He has tremendous ability - that's the frustrating thing."

Meanwhile yesterday, a South Korean football official suggested that the 2002 World Cup be rescheduled to start in May to avoid the rainy season in South Korea and Japan.

Park Seh-jik, the chairman of South Korea's World Cup organizing committee, said he will discuss the idea with co-host Japan before proposing it to Fifa, football's world governing body.

"I think there is no reason Japan would object to the idea, because the two countries are in the same seasonal belt," Park said. Japan and South Korea are co-hosts to the 2002 World Cup, football's first major world event to be held in Asia.

The World Cup has traditionally has started around 10 June, after the professional football seasons in Europe and South America end in May.

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