Football: That was the weekend that was

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No engine problems for record-equalling Ford

IT WAS always the quiz question everyone knew - who holds the record among outfield players for the highest number of League appearances in a career?

The answer, of course, is Southampton's Terry Paine. But not for much longer...

On Saturday, in the Third Division, Paine's tally of 824 League matches, which has stood unchallenged for 22 years, was equalled by the Mansfield Town defender, Tony Ford, who has no intention of hanging up his boots, even though by the time next season starts he will be in his 41st year.

Ford's progress to the record has been extraordinary, given that two years ago it seemed even to him that his full-time playing career was over. He had been released by Scunthorpe, his sixth club in a career that began at Grimsby in 1977, and was playing for Barrow in the Conference. Then came a call from Steve Parkin, the Mansfield manager, who asked him to be youth coach at Field Mill.

The contract did not involve playing but soon after, Parkin was short of players for a trip to Scarborough and Ford found himself on the bench. The week after he was in the starting line-up and has been there, more or less, ever since.

"There seems to be some unwritten rule that when you get to 32 or 33 you should start thinking about packing up," Ford said. "But I think it is rubbish. I love playing football and my body will tell me when it is time to give up. Until then I will carry on."

Ipswich profit from going Dutch again

ALMOST TWO decades may have passed since the heady days when Franz Thijssen and Arnold Muhren helped turn Bobby Robson's Ipswich Town into a genuine force in the land, but the reputation of the two great Dutchmen is still working to Portman Road's advantage even to this day.

It has enabled George Burley to build his own Dutch contingent in the present promotion-chasing Ipswich side. The latest recruit, 28-year-old defender Fabian Wilnis, made his debut on Saturday.

Wilnis, born in Surinam, had decided to move on after three years with De Graafschap - his third club, after Sparta Rotterdam and NAC Breda - but had not thought of moving to England until Burley showed an interest.

"When I decided I wanted to move I was not thinking about England, but when I heard Ipswich wanted me I was very excited.

"I know about Ipswich from the early Eighties, when they had Muhren and Thijssen in the team. It would be great to help them get back to the top again."

Wilnis could have left De Graafschap on a free transfer in the summer but Ipswich were hardly likely to baulk at the fee being asked.

The man who will replace Mauricio Taricco, the Argentinian sold to Tottenham for pounds 1.75m, cost Ipswich less than pounds 50,000.

RUMOURS

Di Canio favours return to Scotland

SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY'S Paolo di Canio isolation could drag on for another two months, according to Scotland's Sunday Mail, which reports that the stayaway Italian wants to return to Celtic, whom he left to join Wednesday after a dispute with owner Fergus McCann. But it is unlikely to happen until McCann sells his stake in the Parkhead club, which could take until March. Meanwhile, the Mail says, Di Canio is prepared to hang on at Hillsborough. Wednesday are said to want only pounds 1.5m.

The News of the World reckons Aston Villa will be stepping up their pursuit of the Brazilian Juninho, who has fallen out with the Atletico Madrid coach Arrigo Sacchi and could Villa's for pounds 10m.

The Mirror reports that Newcastle directors are furious because Crystal Palace are asking pounds 6m for striker Matt Jansen, whom former manager Kenny Dalglish could have signed for pounds 1m from Carlisle. Even so, Ruud Gullit is determined to have Jansen in his squad alongside Alan Shearer and Duncan Ferguson, which would give credence to the News of the World's story that Gullit may offload out-of-favour Paul Dalglish to Birmingham for pounds 1m.

The News of the World says Ron Atkinson will recruit Peter Shreeves as his No 2 if he decides to take over at Nottingham Forest and may move for Newcastle's old City Ground icon Stuart Pearce. The Mirror believes Atkinson will also offer a position to Ray Wilkins, leaving caretaker Mickey Adams out of a job.

According to the People, Gianluca Vialli tried to ease Chelsea's striker crisis by asking Tottenham for Les Ferdinand on loan but found George Graham unwilling.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Today: Stirling's Scottish Cup second round replay against Montrose is the only action on the mainland... and even that is threatened by the weather.

Tomorrow: In the FA Cup, the celebrated giant-killers of Yeovil attempt to put one over Third Division leaders Cardiff in one of three third-round replays, the others being Barnsley against Swindon and Notts County against Sheffield United.

Wednesday: Three FA Cup replays, three possible upsets. Second Division top dogs Fulham are at home to Premiership strugglers Southampton, Third Division Swansea take on West Ham (remember Wrexham?) and Rushden & Diamonds attempt the impossible against Leeds at Elland Road.

Friday: Nationwide action pits Colchester against Wrexham and Chester and Brighton.

Saturday: At Stamford Bridge, leaders Chelsea renew acquaintance with Coventry, the last team to beat them in the Premiership, Manchester United face an awkward trip to Leicester and Arsenal go to bottom-of-the-table Nottingham Forest, who may by then have Ron Atkinson at the helm. In the First Division, Birmingham go to Barnsley, for whom victory could usher Yorkshire neighbours Bradford City, at home to bottom club Crewe, into second place.

Sunday: Depending on Saturday's results, Sunderland could extend their First Division lead to 12 points at the expense of third-placed Ipswich at the Stadium of Light. Meanwhile, down in The Valley, Charlton take on Newcastle in the Premiership, hoping to avoid a 10th straight defeat.

Premiership Team Of The Week

DAN PETRESCU

Chelsea

DWIGHT YORKE

Manchester United

EMMANUEL PETIT

Arsenal

MARTIN KEOWN

Arsenal

MARK HUGHES

Southampton

STEPHANE HENCHOZ

Blackburn Rovers

ED DE GOEY

Chelsea

DARREN HUCKERBY

Coventry City

GARY McALLISTER

Coventry City

SOL CAMPBELL

Tottenham Hotspur

JASON EUELL

Wimbledon

Manager of the weekend: Gianluca Vialli, plotted the defeat of his predecessor, Ruud Gullit, at Newcastle and gave a virtuoso display of the striker's art into the bargain.

Performance of the weekend: Blackburn Rovers, whose all-hands-to-the- pumps defensive action against Leeds gave them victory after surviving for 66 minutes with 10 men.

KEY NUMBERS

5-4

The shortening odds (with Hills) against Chelsea, now favourites, to win the Premiership title

20

Chelsea's run of unbeaten matches in the Premiership following Saturday's success, a club record

50

Manager Gianluca Vialli's tally of matches in charge since taking over from Ruud Gullit, of which Chelsea have won 28, drawn 12 and lost 10

I TOLD YOU SO

I'm sure there is enough spirit here for us to dig ourselves out of the hole we are in and hopefully we'll start winning at Coventry

Mickey Adams, Nottingham Forest's caretaker manager, ahead of Saturday's 4-0 defeat at Highfield Road

Alessandro Pistone

Newcastle United

KENNY DALGLISH paid pounds 4.3m for the Internazionale wing back just 18 months ago but there now seems little future for the 23-year-old Italian on Tyneside. Out of favour with new manager Ruud Gullit, for whom he has made only one appearance, his history of minor injuries and illnesses has apparently lost the sympathy of some team-mates, too.

David Dunn

Blackburn Rovers

THE 19-YEAR-OLD Blackburn-born midfielder, one of a blossoming crop of Ewood Park youngsters, earned high praise from manager Brian Kidd for his part in Saturday's 1-0 defeat of Leeds, in which he played 64 minutes after coming on as substitute. "Even though we were up against it, I had no hesitation in putting him on," Kidd said.

Norman Collier

NEVER SHORT of a wisecrack or two, the animated comedian remains in popular demand on the after-dinner circuit, as does Norman Collier. Such a pity the day job imposes on his time so much. Perhaps Norman could stand in now and again...

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