Football: Robson revels in a choice start

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The Independent Online
FIGHTING on the terraces at Blackpool, a sit-down protest on the pitch after Rotherham's home defeat, 10 players sent off in England and three in Scotland and Captain Marvel victorious in his Endsleigh League debut as player-manager at Middlesbrough. Forget Romario and Baggio, it's Ee- ay-addio, welcome back to the Endsleigh League.

Win, lose or draw it was inevitable that the former England captain Bryan Robson would take centre stage on the first day of the new season as Boro beat Burnley, just promoted from the Second Division. John Hendrie scored twice, delighting more than 23,000 Boro fans. While Robson luxuriated in the bath after the match, assistant manager Viv Anderson said: 'We battled through when we had to and we were very sound defensively.'

Words echoed by former England manager Graham Taylor at Wolverhampton Wanderers' now pristine Molineux. The bookies' favourites for promotion beat a useful Reading side 1-0. 'The result is the most important thing for us today. We'll have to improve on other things,' Taylor said.

Of the other favourites for the one automatic promotion place to the Premiership, Sheffield United beat Watford 3-0, Mitch Ward scoring twice. 'I've said all along we expect to be up there at the end of the season,' Blades' manager Dave Bassett said, 'and although this was the start we wanted, we are not getting carried away.'

In the Second Division, relegated Birmingham City are fancied for promotion at the first time of asking but lost at Leyton Orient. Many pundits fancy promoted Wycombe Wanderers to prosper again and Martin O'Neill's side got off to a flying start when Simon Garner scored the first goal of the English season after two minutes at home to Cambridge. Wanderers won 3-0.

The season's other 'firsts' in the Endsleigh also came in the Second Division: Jason Perry of Cardiff became the first player to be sent off. He lasted 26 minutes at Stockport where Joe Kinnear, the Wimbledon manager, was talking further to County about striker Kevin Francis. In fact, a rash of dismissals had been expected after Fifa's post-World Cup directive to referees to tighten up and four were sent off in the Second, six in the Third. Huddersfield fans fought Blackpool's; Rotherham's called for the chairman's resignation.

In the Third, Torquay's 3-1 win at Colchester and Carlisle's 2-1 win over Wigan were the impressive results. John Beck's tardy Preston eventually turned up 15 minutes after kick-off time at Darlington - long-ball yes; long haul no - and treated the 3,800 crowd to a 0-0 draw.

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