Football: That was the weekend that was

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Fans losing hope of advances with Wolves

THESE ARE sad days indeed for those close to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Losing 4-2 at home last week in the Worthington Cup to lowly Wycombe was bad enough, but that was nothing compared to the ignominy of Saturday's 2- 1 defeat at Molineux to Walsall.

Think of Manchester United capitulating at home to Bury. Or Liverpool rolling over at Anfield against Tranmere. Such was the pain of the Molineux faithful, who resorted to chanting, "Where's the money gone?" and "What a load of rubbish" at the club's managing director, John Richards.

"I can understand the frustration," Richards said, although it must have been hard on him, as he is the club's second-highest scorer, with 194 goals, and his allegiance should hardly be in doubt. "I'm the obvious target and they had to take their anger out on somebody. There's disappointment over the sale of Robbie Keane [to Coventry], but there is money there for [manager] Colin Lee to spend. It is not fair to say nothing has been done about signing players. A lot of things are going on behind the scenes."

Whatever is happening, the situation is serious enough to be worrying Wolves' Caribbean-based president, Sir Jack Hayward. He never misses a game when he is in the country, but was apparently absent on Saturday even though he was in the Midlands. Sir Jack made a recent defence of his reign in the local press. "I've never taken a penny out of Wolves, and never intend to," he said. "I want only an emotional return, not a financial one," he added.

The fans would probably agree, but the chances of an upturn in fortunes seem remote at the moment.

Powell's passion for pulling birds

DERBY COUNTY'S Pride Park has attracted numerous weird and wonderful visitors in the past couple of years, with Saturday's squad being a fine example of its pulling power - 10 of the 16 players were foreign, coming from as far afield as Estonia and Argentina. Not all the stadium's recent newcomers, however, have been human.

One feathered fan, a cockateel, was found sitting in a stand at the start of the season, allegedly waiting for a glimpse of Derby's Bald Eagle, Jim Smith. It was returned to its owner after a radio appeal. Another interloper was a racing pigeon from Manchester called Percy, whose owner was a United fan. He denied sending the bird on a spying mission. Several other homing pigeons have since been found on the premises.

So what's the attraction? According to Saturday's match programme, it could be the Rams' Darryl Powell. "His childhood fascination with pigeons began when he used to help a disabled man clean out his pigeon loft," the programme says. "He used to take the birds to the top of a hill and release them, then watch them fly back to the loft - and his passion for the sport took off from there." Popular with the birds, indeed.

RUMOURS

Graham hopes it's good to talk to Beattie

GEORGE GRAHAM is ready to make a pounds 4m bid for Southampton's England U21 striker, James Beattie, according to the Sunday People, which says Graham is looking for a successor for Les Ferdinand and Beattie would jump at the chance of a move.

According to the Sunday Mirror, Leeds want Beattie in a player-plus-cash deal, but no Leeds players are mentioned by name. The paper says Graham's top target is Sheffield Wednesday's pounds 4m-rated defender, Emerson Thome.

Middlesbrough's German wing-back, Christian Ziege, is threatening to walk out a month after joining from Milan, according to the News Of The World, which quotes the player as saying the club does not have enough ambition. The same paper claims that Paul Gascoigne and Paul Ince are considering international retirement.

The People says Liverpool have made a bid for Arsenal's England U-21 midfielder Stephen Hughes, on loan at Fulham, while Bradford are ready to spend pounds 3m on Bristol City striker Ade Akinbiyi. Fulham and Aston Villa are also interested, the People says, but Bristol are unlikely to sell unless they get closer to pounds 4m. Akinbiyi is on his way to Wolves for pounds 3.5m, according to the News Of The World.

Huddersfield want to buy Everton's Danny Cadamarteri, according to the Sunday Mirror, who also claim that Manchester United could sign Juventus's Uruguayan central defender Paolo Montero.

CARD CHECK

Leeds and Wrexham both managed 2-1 wins on Saturday, despite having a man sent off, but they were the only sides to see red and prosper. Three teams (Brighton, Carlisle and QPR) lost a man and settled for 1-1 draws, while another three (Everton, Swindon and Hull) lost a man and lost by the odd goal. Preston lost a player and were thumped 4-1 by Wigan, but the biscuit was taken by Portsmouth, who had two reds and lost 6-0 against Barnsley.

NET MINDER

"Scots make the best managers, so gizza job, Freddie." - Message to Newcastle United directors, purportedly from Coventry manager, Gordon Strachan, on Newcastle's chat page - http://mb.nufc.co.uk/forum/8.html - yesterday. Other offerings: "Now we can play sexy football" and "The players will be motivated now that dreadlocks has gone."

Forgotten man... Face of the future

Patrick Colleter

Southampton

THE FRENCH defender looked to be one of the bargains of last season when he moved from Marseilles for pounds 100,000 and made an assured debut against Chelsea on 26 December. Fans of Gianluca Vialli's team will remember him as the man who ended Gustavo Poyet's season (and arguably Chelsea's title hopes) in a challenge in that match. He made 16 appearances but has not been seen since the 3-3 draw with Blackburn on 17 April and is showing about as many signs as reappearing as Rovers are of promotion.

Tommy Smith

Watford

GRAHAM TAYLOR knows a thing or two about living on tight budgets and players such as 19-year-old Tommy Smith could make all the difference to the Hornets' long-term future. A graduate of the Watford youth scheme, the Hemel Hempstead-born striker signed professional terms in October 1997, having proved himself at youth level. Before this season he had made nine senior appearances and scored twice. He has made one substitute appearance in the Premiership and a starting place cannot be far away.

KEY NUMBERS

0

The number of goalless draws in the Premier and Nationwide League on Saturday. The only professional 0-0 in Britain was East Fife v Montrose in the Scottish Third Division.

3

The number of teams scoring six or more goals on Saturday. Barnsley and Barnet scored half a dozen each while Huddersfield went one better.

6

The number of goals Arsenal have conceded this season. It took them until mid-November last year to ship as many, and they only let in 17 all season.

WHINGE OF THE WEEK

`It was disappointing he should miss the penalty because had that one gone in it would have been game over.'

Nottingham Forest's David Platt bemoans Ian Wright's miss against QPR, despite the striker having scored earlier.

Premiership Team Of The Week

DAN PETRESCU

Chelsea

ROBBIE FOWLER

Liverpool

FRANCESCO BAIANO

Derby County

LUCAS RADEBE

Leeds United

TITI CAMARA

Liverpool

TIM SHERWOOD

Tottenham Hotspur

NIGEL MARTYN

Leeds United

PAOLO DI CANIO

West Ham United

TREVOR SINCLAIR

West Ham United

RIO FERDINAND

West Ham United

IAN HARTE

Leeds United

Manager of the week: David O'Leary (Leeds) - proved to the sorceror that his apprentice can inspire a young side on his own. Performance of the week: Liverpool - A significant win, inspired by Fowler, is not to be sniffed at.

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