Football: Pleat's legacy prospers a week too late

Sheffield Wednesday 5 Di Canio 20, Whittingham 26, Booth 29, 33, 44 Bolton Wanderers 0 Attendance: 25,027
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The Independent Online
So Who needs a manager? Wednesday, who sacked David Pleat last weekend and have placed his deputy, Peter Shreeves, in short-term charge, marked the temporary absence of a figurehead on the bench by producing an extraordinary performance in which all the goals were contained in 24 minutes of the first half.

It goes almost without saying that it was Wednesday's best day of the season, taking them off the bottom of the table and demolishing the idea that Bolton, who defended dreadfully, have found their feet in the Premiership. Three of the goals came from Andy Booth, one of those players whose unavailability through injury had so handicapped Pleat.

Colin Todd, Bolton's manager, brought two of his defenders with him to the post-match press conference, determined that blame should be placed where it was deserved. "Responsibility lies with the players," he said. "With all respect to Wednesday, we made it easy for them."

Shreeves, who said that Pleat's successor would be named on Wednesday, revealed that he had spoken to his former boss after the match. "He was delighted for me, the players and the club," Shreeves said.

"I felt for David because I had the opportunity to pick players who were not available to him. It was a gamble to play Booth and Peter Atherton, who are not 100 per cent fit, but I am in the gambling business and we needed to win."

Shreeves must now wait to learn his own fate. "It all depends on who comes and whether he fancies me as a coach. I've not applied for the job myself but then I always believe that if someone wants me they will contact me."

Last night's speculation was concentrating on Bruce Rioch, assistant at Queen's Park Rangers, and Howard Wilkinson, the FA technical director who left Hillsborough for Leeds in 1988.

Booth scored three times in 16 minutes as Wednesday, building splendid moves around the dancing feet of Paulo di Canio and the impressive Norwegian Petter Rudi - Pleat's last signing - swept into a 5-0 half-time lead.

But the young centre-forward's hat-trick was just one highlight of an exhibition set in motion when Di Canio curled a shot beyond the hand of Keith Branagan and continued when Rudi's measured cross was headed home by Guy Whittingham.

Booth opened his account in the 28th minute, beating Branagan with a glancing header. Five minutes later, supplied by Whittingham, he beat Branagan again with his right foot. Then came the best of the three. Rudi, di Canio and Whittingham combined, Booth arriving in the perfect position to throw his frame behind Whittingham's cross.

Booth was rested after an hour. Atherton stayed a little longer before Graham Hyde, another of Pleat's lamented absentees, was handed his chance. The strength they in turn brought was not of such consequence, however, as the range and vision of the long-limbed Rudi.

How must Pleat have felt as his old players ripped Bolton to pieces? All along, he had insisted that once long-term casualties returned his team of capricious talents would blossom. Yesterday, too late for the manager who knew, it happened.

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