Football: Never return? The contrasting experiences of those revisiting scenes of former glory...

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The Independent Online
three that worked...

VINNIE JONES

If ever a player could call a club his spiritual home, it is Jones. Wimbledon plucked the tattooed hod-carrier from obscurity in 1986, and, after his three-year sabbatical with Leeds, Sheffield United and Chelsea, restored him to the fold five years ago. Reacquaintance has been mutually advantageous; his clenched fist and resilience keep the Crazy Gang spirit alive, while the status he enjoys within Sam Hammam's "family" overrides his technical shortcomings.

IAN RUSH

One sensed that Rush might not be suited to foreign football when, not long after earning Liverpool pounds 3.2m from Juventus in 1987, he said that living in Italy was "like being in another country". One unhappy year later, Kenny Dalglish reinstated him at Anfield for pounds 2.7m. The Welsh whippet may have been less prolific second time round - 90 goals in 245 games against 139 in 224 in his first spell - but gave great service before leaving in 1996.

STANLEY MATTHEWS

Matthews was the ultimate in returning heroes - and the most unlikely. Having left Stoke City for Blackpool at the age of 32, amid claims that his transfer would adversely affect production in the pottery industry, the Wizard of Dribble was 46 when Tony Waddington paid pounds 2,500 to bring him home in 1961. Stoke's crowd shot up from 8,000 to nearly 36,000 overnight, and the impetus propelled the club to promotion to the former First Division within two years.

and three that didn't

JOHN CHARLES

The only great player Leeds United produced before the Don Revie era, Charles' prowess in either defence or attack meant he commanded a world- record fee of pounds 65,000 when Juventus signed him in 1957. The Gentle Giant won three Italian League medals before Revie paid pounds 53,000 to bring him back after five years. Charles, alas, was heavier and slower than Elland Road remembered him, and played only 11 times before Leeds gratefully accepted Roma's pounds 70,000 bid.

ANDY GRAY

Gray's first full season with Aston Villa after joining for pounds 110,000 from Dundee United brought 29 goals. Four seasons later, after falling foul of Ron Saunders, he fetched pounds 1.5m from Wolves, though it was with Everton that his selflessness and bravery reaped their greatest reward. Graham Turner re-signed him for Villa for pounds 150,000 in 1985, but he was a spent force, scoring only five goals in 54 League games before winding down towards a second coming on Sky.

CHARLIE NICHOLAS

Nicholas was the original svelte Celt in his first spell with Glasgow's greens, plundering 79 goals in 95 games between 1980-83. After an ill- advised pounds 750,000 transfer to Arsenal, followed by a move to Aberdeen, he lost much of his early flamboyance. He returned to Celtic for pounds 450,000 in 1990, but he was bulkier and unable to accelerate away from defenders. Nor was the shambolic state of the club he had always worshipped conducive to a productive reunion.

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