Football: Taylor keen to get out of Premiership

THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS
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The Independent Online
Like Walsall's French striker Roger Boli two weeks earlier, Bob Taylor savoured every moment of scoring at Old Trafford as Bolton Wanderers added their contribution to the jolting of Manchester United's title challenge at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The goal enabled the 30-year-old former Leeds forward to sign off with a flourish after completing a one-month spell on loan from First Division West Bromwich Albion.

However, unlike Boli, who has made no secret of his ambition to play at a slightly higher level than the bottom half of the Second Division, Taylor cannot wait for the chance to prove that he still has a future in the Midlands.

Taylor fell out of favour at The Hawthorns when Ray Harford became manager, slipping behind Andy Hunt, Paul Peschisolido and Lee Hughes in the Albion pecking order. When Harford left and Denis Smith took over, he expected to be given an equal chance with the other strikers at the club.

"Instead I am sent on loan to Bolton," he said this weekend. "I've enjoyed every minute, but I would have thought the best way for the manager to see what I can do would have been to stay at Albion."

In his absence, Smith signed Southampton's Micky Evans for pounds 750,000 to replace the departed Peschisolido, which does not augur well for Taylor's future.

Despite having now scored the first top-flight goal of his career - Leeds were in the old Second Division throughout his stint at Elland Road - Taylor expects his next competitive outing to come with Albion's reserves.

Smith, meanwhile, insists that Taylor's loan spell was merely designed to improve his sharpness and says he is certainly still a part of his plans for the remainder of the season.

RUMOURS

Fact and ction from the Sunday papers

Arsenal had spies in France on Saturday to check on Metz striker Robert Peres, according to the People, who reckon Arsene Wenger is lining up an pounds 8m offer to head off interest from Newcastle. The same paper says Arsenal's Nicolas Anelka is wanted in Spain by Espanol, while the News of the World and Mirror link Ian Wright with possible moves to West Ham and Middlesbrough respectively. The Mirror says West Ham are also looking at Leeds striker Rod Wallace and Stockport's Alun Armstrong.

Newcastle's sights are on emerging Dutch star Giovanni van Bronckhorst, according to the Mail on Sunday, although their claims to exclusive information are undermined by the appearance of the story in the People. The Mail puts a price of pounds 4m on the 23-year-old from Feyenoord, while the People suggests a more modest pounds 2.5m. The Express and People say Keith Gillespie's request for a long-term contract at St James' Park has been snubbed.

The Mail predicts a three-way tussle between Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea for PSV Eindhoven defender Japp Stam, despite a prohibitive pounds 15m price tag, and says Chelsea have won the race for Finnish winger Joonas Kolkka, who will be free to leave Dutch side Willem II at the end of the season.

Meanwhile, Ruud Gullit's delay in signing a new contract at Chelsea is attributed by the Mirror to his wanting assurances from chairman Ken Bates over how much he can spend on strengthening his team. Gullit is concerned, apparently, that the cost of developing the Stamford Bridge ground might restrict his buying power.

The Mirror concurs with the News of the World in suggesting that Steve McManaman is being pursued by Roma as well as Barcelona, with the Italians ready to match the Spaniards' pounds 12m offer. They also report that David Beckham is stalling over a pounds 20,000-a-week contract offer from Manchester United because he does not want to commit himself to the seven-year term they are proposing.

The 1st Eleven

United by a city - 11 exiled Mancunians

Lee Dixon (Arsenal)

Darren Sheridan (Barnsley)

Ashley Ward (Barnsley)

Andy Hinchcliffe (Sheff Wed)

Terry Phelan (Everton)

Curtis Fleming (Middlesbrough)

Andy Ritchie (Oldham)

Tony Naylor (Port Vale)

Wayne Collins (Fulham)

Paul Stewart (Stoke)

Clive Wilson (Tottenham)

Smart move at Cambridge United

Reg Smart, the chairman of Third Division Cambridge United, could have been forgiven for wondering if he had made an embarrassing mistake as he watched his side booed off the field at half-time at the Abbey Stadium on Saturday.

After a dreadful first half, United had just gone behind to Doncaster Rovers, bottom of the Nationwide League and without an away win all season. After losing four of their previous six matches, defeat in this company did not bear thinking about so far as the home crowd was concerned.

It was not quite what the chairman had wanted to see, given that he had just announced that his under-fire manager, Roy McFarland, would be staying at the club.

Having remained tight-lipped for two days following a critical board meeting, Smart ended speculation that the former Derby and Bolton manager would be dismissed by announcing an extension to McFarland's contract that will give him at least another year to organise a revival of United's fortunes.

In one of football's rare examples of boardroom loyalty, Smart admitted he was disappointed with results during McFarland's 15 months in charge, having hoped to at least make the play-offs this season, but said he was prepared to allow him more time.

"I love working with the guy," he said. "He knows the financial problems we have and, despite that, we think we can get the club going in the right direction."

Happily for all concerned, United recovered from the shock of Doncaster's 44th-minute goal and two second-half replies spared Smart's blushes.

McFarland, meanwhile, will be keeping his fingers crossed that the scare does not persuade Smart to change his mind before the contract documents - as yet unsigned - return from the club's solicitors.

GOOD BOYS . . .

THE PREMIERSHIP'S

LEADING SCORERS

Andy Cole 21

(Man Utd)

John Hartson 19

(West Ham)

Kevin Gallacher 16

(Blackburn)

Dion Dublin 16

(Coventry)

Dennis Bergkamp 15

(Arsenal)

Chris Sutton 15

(Blackburn)

Gianluca Vialli 15

(Chelsea)

. . . and BAD BOYS

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

Leeds United

Coventry City

Arsenal

Bolton

Chelsea

54

51

53

48

49

3

5

2

4

3

FAMILY

TREE

Family connections abound at Manchester City, where the Whitleys have taken over from the Brightwells as bona fide brothers-in-arms at Maine Road.

Contrary to one widely circulating notion, Jim and Jeff Whitley are not twins, much as they share some physical similarities. The former, in fact, is four years senior to 19-year-old Jeff, who has joined his brother in gaining full international honours with Northern Ireland after making eye-catching progress in City's team.

The day when twins appear in the same Manchester City line-up, however, may not be far away. Also to be found among a huge professional staff at Maine Road are Anthony and Nick Fenton, who joined the club as schoolboys and have kept pace with each other since in edging closer to the senior squad.

"We took them on from school and they are both now professionals," a City spokesman, Bernard Halford, said of the Preston-born boys, who turned 18 last November. "They both played for England schoolboys and they are both defenders, although Anthony can play up front as well. Nick is probably slightly ahead in that he has had a game for the reserves and is training with the England Under-18s. But they are both talented boys."

The Brightwell family ties remain, meanwhile, despite 27-year-old David, now with Northampton, having left 29-year-old Ian behind. Their father, former Olympic athlete Robbie, is one of City's fitness and running coaches.

Missing...

Steve Nicol

(Sheffield Wednesday)

Having finished last season as a regular in the Wednesday side that just missed out on European qualification, the 36-year-old former Liverpool defender - a member of their 1986 Double-winning side - has been confined to the reserves for most of this campaign. Has not appeared in the Premiership since the 6-1 defeat at Manchester United that ultimately cost David Pleat the Wednesday manager's job in early November. Looking for a new challenge after failing to make an impact with new boss, Ron Atkinson, he has been in talks with Wigan and is said also to be interesting West Bromwich Albion and Huddersfield.

Steve Simonsen

(Tranmere Rovers)

The 18-year-old from South Shields had not started a senior match before last November, but since taking over from Danny Coyne in Tranmere Rovers' goal, he has kept eight clean sheets in 15 matches, a record that looks even better when the Wirral club's League position is taken into account. Premiership managers are already taking note.

Revealed - the secret Psycho tried to hide! That soppy fop to whom Jeremy Irons took such a shine in Brideshead Revisited was not Anthony Andrews but our Stuart! "All right, it's true," he confessed, his past exposed despite several subsequent roles as a tough footballer, "...but don't tell them I still have the teddy bear."

PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK

MARK BOSNICH

ASTON VILLA

KEN MONKOU

SOUTHAMPTON

IAN PEARCE

WEST HAM

GARY BREEN

COVENTRY

GARRY PARKER

LEICESTER

NICOLA BERTI

TOTTENHAM

STEPHEN HUGHES

ARSENAL

STAN LAZARIDIS

WEST HAM

DAVID GINOLA

TOTTENHAM

ANDY COLE

MAN UTD

MICHAEL OWEN

LIVERPOOL

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