Football: That Was The Weekend That Was - Bell drops clanger over ban on Sentinel man

BRIAN HORTON'S first victory as Port Vale manager failed to make the headlines in the Stoke Sentinel's Green 'Un on Saturday evening for a simple reason - the Sentinel's reporter was barred by the club from attending the game.

The sanction against sportswriter Martin Spinks was imposed by Vale's 67-year-old chairman, Bill Bell, who has found himself the target of Vale fans' displeasure after sacking their manager of 15 years, John Rudge, two weeks ago. Bell's rage was apparently sparked by an attack of vandalism at his garage business, W T Bell Ltd, in which cars on the forecourt had their windscreens smashed.

According to the Sentinel, Bell telephoned the sports desk on Saturday morning after discovering the damage, blaming Spinks for the attack. "It's your writing that's done this," he reportedly said. "While I'm here, keep away."

A bemused Spinks commented: "To virtually accuse me of inciting people to vandalise cars on his garage forecourt simply beggars belief."

What upset Bell, apparently, was Spinks's reporting of the so-called "flat cap march" organised by supporters in honour of Rudge and his trademark headgear. More than 400 Vale fans took part in the march, all wearing flat caps and releasing 843 balloons - one for each match of their former manager's reign.

Now Bell, chairman for 12 years, is threatening to sell his controlling interest in the club, for which he is believed to want some pounds 2m. Meanwhile, the Sentinel is standing behind its man and will leave Port Vale affairs unreported.

KEY NUMBERS

2

The wins achieved by Blackburn in their last 20 Premiership away matches - Saturday's was the first of this season.

350

The League appearances clocked up by Wolves goalkeeper Mike Stowell, who needs only 13 to pass ex-England keeper Bert Williams' club record of 420 games in all competitions

564

The Premiership minutes since Arsenal's back four last conceded a goal

I TOLD YOU SO

My advice to the players will be simple: be brave and be bold

Ron Atkinson, speaking before Nottingham Forest's 8-1 home defeat to Manchester United.

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