THE BITTER reaction among Port Vale fans to the dismissal of long- serving manager John Rudge is unlikely to die down quickly, which will not help new boss Brian Horton's efforts to save the Potteries club from relegation.
After staging a balloon launch in Rudge's honour at Ipswich on Saturday they are now planning to turn a forthcoming home match into a "flat cap day", with up to 6,000 supporters donning a flat cap in respect of Rudge's trademark headgear.
Balloons were released at Portman Road to mark Rudge's 843 matches in charge during 15 years as manager. Supporter Ian White, who organised the launch, lamented that Port Vale "will never be the same again without John".
Meanwhile, Rudge, who turned down an offer to become director of football at Vale Park, has revealed that he had wanted to groom Wimbledon's former Vale star Robbie Earle as his successor. The 34-year-old Jamaican international was among a host of well-wishers who visited Rudge in the wake of his sacking.
"Robbie is just the sort of player I would have liked to have helped take his first steps into management," Rudge said. "He would have been very popular with the fans.
"I had 18 months left on my contract and it was my intention to bring in a younger man who would eventually take over. I think Robbie would be keen to get into management, so who knows what might have happened in the future?"
Mountfield has a mountain to climb
BEFORE CHRISTMAS, there seemed only one candidate for the Nationwide League's wooden spoon, with Hull City unchallenged as the side most likely to start next season in the Conference. But Hull's revival and Scarborough's collapse has changed that. After the Boothferry Park club took a point against Shrewsbury on Saturday and Scarborough crashed to 5-1 defeat at Scunthorpe, only a point separates the east-coast rivals.
However, it has not stopped the former England international Derek Mountfield from trying to land the manager's job at the McCain Stadium. Mountfield, 36, won the FA Cup and two titles with Everton as well as B and Under- 21 caps but after being released from his post as player-coach at Walsall last summer wound up on the dole. Applications for the manager's jobs at Wigan, Burnley and Torquay did not receive acknowledgement and even non-League Stevenage turned him down. He was more than happy to start again as a player when Scarborough invited him to turn out for them just after Christmas.
Now Mick Wadsworth, the man who had offered him a lifeline, has left for Colchester and Mountfield, along with Ray McHale, has been placed in at least temporary charge.
"It came out of the blue but I'll be giving it 110 per cent," he said. "I'm determined to keep Scarborough in the League. And it will be good to get something on my CV."
The red cards Blackburn "we're not dirty" Rovers have picked up so far this season.
The goals Bristol Rovers striker Jason Roberts has grabbed in 13 games after replacing pounds 2m Fulham buy Barry Hayles.
I TOLD YOU SO
"He is at his most dangerous when he has been relatively quiet"
Aston Villa manager John Gregory on Alan Shearer, the day before the Newcastle striker ended his goal drought against Villa.
Shearer to shift south to Gullit's old charges?
JUST AS a long-overdue goal from Alan Shearer was easing the entente dis-cordiale between the England captain and his Newcastle manager, Ruud Gullit, the Sunday Mirror was running a story suggesting that Shearer could leave Tyneside this summer to join Gullit's former club, Chelsea. The Mirror says Gianluca Vialli has already floated the idea of a pounds 15m deal for Shearer, involving cash plus pounds 9m-rated Tore Andre Flo, of whom Gullit remains a big admirer.
Meanwhile, Chelsea, says the same paper, continue to court Barcelona striker Oscar Garcia but will only do business if the Spaniards agree to let him first go on loan until the end of the season.
The News of the World reckons Newcastle's Rob Lee may be heading south, too, either to West Ham or Southampton, and that Gullit has lined up a pounds 4.5m deal to bring Croatia Zagreb's 23-year-old front man Silvio Maric to St James' Park.
But the Mail on Sunday runs the most startling Newcastle story of the weekend, suggesting that American media company NTL, which hopes to win control at St James' Park, would try to bring back Kevin Keegan as manager.
Elsewhere, the News of the World says Aston Villa could pip Tottenham to the signature of Blackburn's unsettled Tim Sherwood as confidence in the success of their Juninho bid declines, while the People says West Ham now want to sign the former Arsenal and Nottingham Forest striker Kevin Campbell, who is ready to quit Turkish side Trabzonspor over late payment of wages.
The Sunday Mirror says Liverpool are chasing Marseilles attacker Titi Camara and Real Madrid defender Aitor Karanka but makes no mention of either Ajax's Georgi Kinkladze or Bayer Leverkusen's Erik Meijer, reported by the News of the World as keen to go to Anfield.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Tomorrow - Part four of the Tottenham-Wimbledon mini-series sees the cast return to White Hart Lane. Is David the Frenchman heading for a fall? And will Joe the boss point the finger again? Tune into the F A Cup fourth-round replay to find out. Also, Brentford meet Carlisle in the Third Division.
Wednesday - Having been let off the hook by Mike Reed last week, Chelsea try to end Oxford United's FA Cup dreams at the second attempt, while Huddersfield take Wrexham back to Yorkshire. In the Premiership, Manchester United meet Derby.
Friday - Three Nationwide League matches - resurgent Queen's Park Rangers travel to Bristol City in the First Division, York visit Colchester in the Second and Swansea take on Brighton in the Third.
Saturday - The Premiership presents a top-against-bottom triple-header, featuring Nottingham Forest - looking for their second win under Big Ron - against Manchester United, Chelsea at home to a reviving Southampton and faltering Aston Villa against battling Blackburn. Meanwhile, Paolo di Canio stands by for his first West Ham start against Arsenal, against whom, it may be recalled, his last appearance ended a little prematurely.
Sunday - It can only get better...after a dire goalless draw at Goodison on Boxing Day, Derby and Everton re-engage at Pride Park.
Premiership Team Of The Week
Manager of the weekend: Ron Atkinson - little more than a week in the job and Forest seize first victory in five months.
Performance of the weekend: Southampton - delivering the perfect response to their 7-1 thrashing at Liverpool.
Missing... making it... and mistaken
DERBY PAID Nottingham Forest pounds 600,000 for Wassall in 1992 but the 30-year-old centre-back has never completely fulfilled his potential. Joined the Blues for pounds 100,000 in March 1997 but suffered an Achilles tendon injury the following November. Unable to force his way back in, he has been restricted to one four-minute appearance as a substitute this season.
Former England Under-18 striker Gifton celebrated his 19th birthday only last month yet already has 24 Watford goals to his credit. The first of those, against Blackpool in November 1996, made him Watford's youngest senior goalscorer at 16 years and nine months. Saturday's winner against Sunderland was his 10th of the season.
It is hardly any wonder that Lindsay Davenport thought she was playing a man when she lost to Amelie Mauresmo. Evidently, it was true! Reveal yourself, please, Emmanuel Petit...
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