Football: THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS

Creaney sends a reminder to City

It is impossible, unless you are a United fan, not to feel just a little sorry for hapless Manchester City. Whatever steps manager Frank Clark takes in trying to shore up his leaky defence or find a consistent, capable - and happy - goalscorer, nothing seems to work.

Take away the six against Swindon, the product of a virtuoso display by Clark's unsettled Georgian star, Giorgi Kinkladze, and City's goals tally amounts to 13 in 15 games.

No wonder City fans with an eye on Gerry Creaney's sudden return to form are wondering if Maine Road is cursed. On Saturday, the 27-year-old Scot netted his eighth goal in 10 starts so far - for Second Division Burnley, with whom he is currently on loan.

It is just the kind of scoring rate to which Creaney became accustomed during his time with Celtic (36 goals in 113 games) and Portsmouth (29 in 57), but which City have never been able to coax from him since Alan Ball paid pounds 2m for his talents more than two years ago.

Curiously, despite his strike rate, none of the four men through City's revolving manager's door since Creaney's signing have been convinced of his abilities. Of his mere 20 Premiership and Endsleigh League matches, only seven have been as a starter and, given that level of confidence, a goals return of just four in two seasons is hardly surprising.

Clearly, Burnley manager Chris Waddle sees him in a better light. Although the Clarets lost at Blackpool on Saturday, that defeat was preceded by a six-match unbeaten run, a vast improvement on Burnley's dreadful start in which they failed to score for six matches.

"I always felt it would come right for us eventually," Waddle said. "We have the right players now to make some progress."

FAMILY

TREE

It is little wonder the Linighan brothers - three of whom still make a living from the professional game - have developed a collective reputation as defenders of particular resilience.

Their father, Brian, made only two League appearances in his career, the first of which obliged him to turn out in six inches of snow for Lincoln against Cardiff in 1958.

It was not the best of debuts. By half-time, Lincoln, who were then bottom of the Second Division, were three goals down and it was to their relief that worsening conditions caused the game to be called off. Brian left Lincoln without making a further appearance to enjoy a similarly brief playing career with Darlington.

Curiously, Brian Jnr, the youngest of his three sons at 24, has only one League start to his name, for Sheffield Wednesday against Wimbledon in January 1994, although he had already made his debut against the same opponents in a League Cup quarter-final. He left Wednesday for Bury on a free transfer last May.

In contrast, 31-year-old Andy Linighan, who joined Crystal Palace for a bargain pounds 150,000 from Arsenal last January, recently passed 500 League games for six clubs, matching the achievements of his older brother, the 32-year-old Blackpool skipper, David.

Hereford must profit from revenge

If Hereford United win their FA Cup first-round tie next Saturday, the scenes at their Edgar Street ground might not quite resemble those that followed the famous demise of Newcastle United there 25 years ago. They will, however, be unreservedly happy ones.

Their opponents, for those readers who do not follow these matters closely, are Brighton and Hove Albion, whose 1-1 draw in the West Country on the last day of last season dramatically saved their own Third Division skins and consigned poor Hereford to the Vauxhall Conference.

Revenge, therefore, is in the air and it would take a confident Brighton supporter to bet against their bringing it off. While the homeless South Coast club - beaten at home by Rotherham on Saturday - have won only twice all season and not at all in their last seven matches, Hereford have lost only once in their last nine Conference games.

And Brighton could hardly find themselves up against a hungrier club.

Although results have been encouraging, they are still carrying the burden of the financial problems that so weakened their bid for Nationwide League survival. Tax and VAT bills are still to be settled and the players only recently had to endure seven weeks without wages.

Ironically, it was only after supporters picked the recent match against Southport to protest about the club's financial plight - and demand the resignation of veteran chairman Peter Hill -that there was enough cash from a bumper gate to pay them.

"In a strange way," director of football Graham Turner said, "the fact that the players had not been paid has acted as a bonding process for all of us."

Hill, who has been with the club 30 years, is ready to sell to the right bidder. In the meantime, however, the players are ready to grasp a run in the Cup as the passport to their own salvation.

RUMOURS

Fact and ction from the Sunday papers

Convinced that Tottenham manager Gerry Francis will throw in the towel, the News of the World helpfully reveals his successor to be Jurgen Klinsmann, who confesses his love for the club and country in a two-page interview. The plan, apparently, is for the German striker to be player- coach under the guidance of a technical supremo, with Joe Kinnear favourite for that role ahead of George Graham and David Pleat...

The Mail on Sunday's "exclusive" on an pounds 11m Juventus move for Steve McManaman finds its way also into the Mirror and the News of the World, both of whom say Milan are also in the hunt...

Players soon to be leaving Milan include pounds 3m-rated Dutch midfielder Edgar Davids, in whom the Mirror and People say Chelsea have revived their interest, and Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert, a pounds 5m target for Newcastle (News of the World)...

According to the People, however, Kenny Dalglish is checking on Strasbourg's David Zitelli and Crewe's Dele Adebola in a wide-ranging search for a new source of goals...

The same paper reckons Arsenal have asked Aston Villa about Dwight Yorke and that Manchester United have Dynamo Kiev striker Andrei Shevchenko at the top of their sopping list, despite a pounds 10m price tag...

Leicester will offer Steve Claridge and Garry Parker plus pounds 4m for Manchester City's Georgi Kinkladze (News of the World), while Everton want Steve Staunton and Mark Draper from Aston Villa and will off-load Andy Hinchcliffe to Blackburn (People).

Missing...

Chris Kiwomya

(Arsenal)

Signed for pounds 1.25 million from Ipswich in January 1995, the Yorkshire- born forward remains an Arsenal player a staggering 30 months after his last Premiership appearance. He last started a match in March 1995, against Manchester United. Not that he has been completely idle. Having spent the latter part of last season in France with Le Havre, the 27-year-old striker has now been shipped off to Selangor, the Malaysian club managed by former Chelsea and QPR defender Steve Wicks, who hopes Kiwomya's goals can carry a team known locally as the "Red Giants" to the Malaysia Cup, in which he set up Selangor's equalising goal against Brunei last week.

Damien Duff

(Blackburn Rovers)

Just 18 years old, the Irish-born winger brought to England from Lourdes Celtic made his senior debut in the last match of last season and impressed new manager Roy Hodgson enough during pre-season to remain in Blackburn's first-team squad. Nine Premiership appearances so far this season include eight as a substitute, the latest of which - on Saturday - brought his first senior goal.

One look at Keith Gillespie's deep-set eyes and pointy ears should have reminded Kenny Dalglish of what Tory leader William Hague told him: never pin your hopes on a right-winger with a dodgy record on Europe.

The 1st Eleven

Eleven teenagers cutting their teeth in the Premiership

Nicolas Anelka (Arsenal) 18

Danny Cadamarteri (Everton) 18

Jamie Carragher (Liverpool) 19

Damien Duff (Blackburn) 18

Rio Ferdinand (West Ham) 19

Emile Heskey (Leicester) 19

Harry Kewell (Leeds) 19

Alan Maybury (Leeds) 19

Jody Morris (Chelsea) 18

John Oster (Everton) 18

Michael Owen (Liverpool) 17

PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK

NEVILLE SOUTHALL

EVERTON

RICHARD SHAW

COVENTRY

GARETH SOUTHGATE

ASTON VILLA

GARY CROFT

BLACKBURN

RAY PARLOUR

ARSENAL

ROBERTO DI MATTEO

CHELSEA

ANDY ROBERTS

C PALACE

OYVIND LEONHARDSEN

LIVERPOOL

PETTER RUDI

SHEFF WED

ANDY BOOTH

SHEFF WED

TEDDY SHERINGHAM

MAN UTD

GOOD BOYS . . .

THE PREMIERSHIP'S

LEADING SCORERS

John Hartson 13

(West Ham)

Dennis Bergkamp 11

(Arsenal)

Chris Sutton 11

(Blackburn)

Andy Cole 11

(Manchester United)

Gianluca Vialli 10

(Chelsea)

Ian Wright 9

(Arsenal)

. . . and BAD BOYS

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

Leeds United

Bolton

Everton

Arsenal

Coventry

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