Football: Dutchman `scared' says Beasant

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DAVE BEASANT, the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper, has accused the striker Pierre Van Hooijdonk - who left the City Ground before the start of the season claiming the club lacked ambition and would be relegated - of being scared to play in the Premier League.

The Forest No 1 believes the Dutchman is frightened of playing among English football's elite. "It might be one of these things that over the summer he has been to the World Cup and thinks he is a better player than he is," Beasant said. "I just think he might have a few doubts about his ability to perform in the Premier Division.

"He scored goals in the Premiership in Scotland. He didn't score goals when Forest went down - he played about 13 times and scored one goal. He scored a lot of goals last season and his profile and his earning potential are very high.

"He might have felt he might not score many goals with Forest this season, so his earning potential might go down."

The former Wimbledon and Southampton 'keeper is convinced the Dutch international's behaviour has helped the side in their first season back in the Premiership. He believes that Van Hooijdonk is already regretting his decision to stay away from Nottingham.

"I think it has helped us as a team," Beasant said. "Individually there will be some people who might say `If he was here, it might have been better'. But on the whole, I think the players have come together and said `Pierre has decided to take the action, we're not in agreement with it. He thinks he is better than we are, better than the club, so let's show Pierre what we can do without him.'"

Nicolas Anelka has apologised to his Arsenal team-mates Marc Overmars and Dennis Bergkamp after being quoted as claiming that Overmars always passed to his Dutch colleague. Yesterday he insisted that the comments were made with his tongue firmly in cheek.

"I made a joke but it was taken out of context. I could not believe the trouble it caused," the 18-year-old Anelka said. "What I said then was that Marc Overmars was sometimes a little too individual. Then I made a joke.

"With a smile I said that when Marc does pass, he passes more to Dennis Bergkamp than me because they are both from Holland.

"Honestly, it was a joke. I was not being serious. There was no intention to upset Marc or Dennis," Anelka said.

The Frenchman has vowed to be wary of any future "jokes" in interviews and said: "The problem was that my answer was taken out of context and people are upset."