Football: That was the weekend that was - Bristol Rovers the discipline disciples

THE RELIEF pervading the Bristol Rovers camp after Saturday's 1-1 draw at Notts County had less to do with leaving Meadow Lane with a point as with finishing the game with 11 on the field.

Discipline has not been Rovers' strong suit this season. On three occasions they have ended matches not with 10 men but nine. And they have picked up 38 cautions in addition to the half-dozen sendings-off, in the light of which a solitary yellow card against County represented something of a triumph.

Back in August, Rovers had Trevor Challis and Lee Jones dismissed after a brawl at Gillingham, but things have got worse this month with Challis and Michael Meaker given their marching orders at Northampton on 10 October only a week after Jason Roberts and Robert Trees had been sent off against Bournemouth.

Embarrassingly, the double dismissal at Northampton came only a day or so after Rovers had written to the Football League complaining about harsh treatment by officials.

The crisis prompted Rovers to hold their own internal disciplinary hearings, at which several players were fined, and led to the player-manager, Ian Holloway, issuing the sternest of warnings.

Holloway - himself cautioned 13 times last season - spent 20 minutes talking to the referee, Bill Jordan, after the incidents at Northampton. "He said we were a nightmare to referee because the players never stopped whingeing," Holloway said.

"From now on, if think someone is losing control during a game I won't be waiting for the referee to deal with it - they will be off the pitch straight away because I'll be substituting them

"And if it happens in training they will be sent out running on their own."

Burnley receive Howarth revenge

MACCLESFIELD'S WIN over Burnley on Saturday tasted especially sweet for one member of the Silkmen's line-up. Neil Howarth's dream of a long career in professional football faded when he was released by the Turf Moor club in 1990 after just one League appearance. When he joined Macclesfield his football status fell effectively four divisions.

Burnley had just been promoted to the First Division when Howarth left, while Macclesfield were bottom of the Conference. The idea they might one day meet on equal terms seemed almost ridiculous to contemplate.

He said: "I thought my best chance of getting back into League football would be getting spotted. Not in my wildest dreams would I have expected this."

In fact, the 26-year-old played a key part in Macclesfield's rise to League status, captaining the side as they overcame the heartache of being denied entry to the League because of ground regulations to finally triumph two seasons ago.

He added: "The last four or five seasons we averaged two or three trophies a season. Our success is down to team spirit."

KEY NUMBERS

5

THE number of goalless draws Everton have had this season.

7

THE number of points Wycombe Wanderers have taken in their last three Second Division matches.

18

SUNDERLAND'S unbeaten run in the First Division.

400

THE number of League appearances clocked up by John Scales with his Tottenham comeback.

I TOLD YOU SO

"I watched Steffen

[Iverson] when he was at Rosenborg and liked what I saw. I think he has a great future if I can get him right."

George Graham,

speaking last Friday. He likes him even more now

Missing... making it... and mistaken

Jody Morris

Chelsea

ANKLE PROBLEMS restricted Chelsea's highly promising young midfielder - who is still only 19 - to just 16 appearances last season and he is now finding it hard to find his way back into Gianluca Vialli's star-studded line-up, despite some excellent form in the reserve side. Yet to feature this season, he may get his chance in the Worthington Cup this week.

Stephen McPhail

Leeds

HAILED AS the new Liam Brady by the former manager George Graham, the 18-year-old London-born midfielder enjoyed his first full 90 minutes of senior action in the pressurised atmosphere of Roma's Stadio Olimpico in the first leg of Leeds' second round Uefa Cup tie last week and he impressed onlookers with the maturity of his performance against the Italian side.

THE CARES of management have yet to distract Huddersfield's Peter Jackson from making sure he looks the part - of a fashion-conscious GQ reader - even down to the carefully chosen coiffure. Maybe it is because someone's told him he looks like Liam Neesom.

RUMOURS

Keegan is FA's

England choice

WHILE THE People reports Manchester United are to give a trial to Icelandic Under-21 goalkeeper Gunni Gunnlifursson, The Mirror says Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bosnich, previously thought likely to go to Italy when his contract expires in the summer, is to tie his future to United as soon as 1 January next year. He will then be entitled to sign a legally binding pre-contract before quitting Villa Park at the end of this season.

The People says United have turned down a new pounds 10m offer from Villa for Andy Cole and are unlikely to let the former Newcastle striker go now he and Dwight Yorke have hit it off so well.

The Express reckons Sheffield Wednesday are checking up on York's useful 21-year-old striker Richard Cresswell while The People says Crystal Palace could swoop with a pounds 1m bid for QPR forward Kevin Gallen.

George Graham's early transfer activity at Tottenham could involve a pounds 4m move for Newcastle's Keith Gillespie, according to The People, and a pounds 5m bid for Leicester centre back Matt Elliott, according to The News Of The World, who also report Graham's interest in Rosenborg defender Andre Bergdolmo not once but twice, giving him a pounds 1.5m valuation in one story and pounds 2m in another.

The Mirror says Kevin Keegan has replaced Roy Hodgson as the FA's nominated replacement for Glenn Hoddle, if and when the England coach resigns. The People says Keegan wants to strengthen Fulham by signing Andy Myers and Paul Hughes, marginalised at Chelsea.

The News Of The World says Blackburn have got wind of Dion Dublin's Coventry discontent - stemming from revelations in a fly-on-the-wall book written with the club's blessing - and will offer pounds 6m for him this week.

The Mail on Sunday reports Everton could be relegated from the Premiership if chairman Peter Johnson does not relinquish shares he still holds in Tranmere.

Premiership Team Of The Week

ESPEN

BAARDSEN

Tottenham

UGO EHIOGU

Aston Villa

JAAP STAM

Man Utd

MATT ELLIOTT

Leicester

ANDY HINCHCLIFFE

Sheff Wed

PAUL INCE

Liverpool

MICHAEL HUGHES

Wimbledon

DANNY MILLS

Charlton

MICHAEL OWEN

Liverpool

MATT LE TISSIER

Southampton

STEFFEN IVERSEN

Tottenham

Manager of the weekend: Alan Curbishley - proving so far that a team with no pounds 20,000 a week superstars really can make it in the Premiership.

Performance of the weekend: Tottenham, firm in the tackle, disciplined, surely some mistake?

THE WEEK AHEAD

Tomorrow: The top dogs join the Worthington Cup, with Liverpool against Fulham the tie of the night among nine third-round matches. Charlton could bring Leicester's interest to an abrupt halt at The Valley and Coventry may not relish their trip to Luton. Ruud Gullit's Newcastle are at Tranmere.

Wednesday: Holders Chelsea face Aston Villa, Arsenal are at Derby and Middlesbrough, losing finalists for the last two years, take on Everton at the Riverside, while Bury travel to Old Trafford to players in Manchester United kit, some of whom will be more recognisable than others.

Saturday: Chelsea meet Aston Villa again, this time in the Premiership, with Manchester United poised to cash in against Everton on Merseyside should Villa's unbeaten record fall. Arsenal ought not to leave Coventry empty- handed while it is Leicester's turn to try to subdue Michael Owen.

Saturday: Sunderland could find themselves needing to win at Bolton to stay top of the First Division. A point at Middlesbrough could take Nottingham Forest out of the bottom three in the Premiership.

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