Football: That Was The Weekend That Was

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Britannia fails to rule waves

Although Swindon rather spoiled the party with two goals late in the second half, the official opening of Stoke City's new Britannia Stadium went off without a major hitch on Saturday - much to the envy of Derby County, who are still trying to live down the embarrassment of the floodlight failure that marked Pride Park's unfortuate debut.

Organisers at the Potteries club generally came up smelling of roses after a 23,000 crowd saw the Stoke legend Sir Stanley Matthews perform the opening ceremony.

However, this was far from the case when the pounds 14.7m stadium underwent a dummy run by staging the Coca-Cola Cup first-round second-leg tie against Rochdale last week.

The floodlights shone brightly throughout but, below stairs, all was not well... as the perspiring players discovered when they had completed their exertions on the field. The Britannia Stadium's gremlins had instead targeted the showers, which refused to dispense even a drop of water.

Given that the Stoke players had been scheduled to attend a reception afterwards, attendance compulsory, this was more than slightly awkward.

"We had to change into our suits as we were," the defender Larus Sigurdsson admitted, "and then apologise to guests in the sponsors' lounge if we smelled a bit."

As they prepare to unveil the pounds 35m Reebok Stadium in Horwich for tonight's match with Everton, Bolton must be wondering which bits they should check first.

Paul Fletcher, Bolton's stadium chief executive, predicts that fans entering the ground for the first time will find that it "takes their breath away". He will be hoping that official guests do not experience the same sensation for different reasons when they meet the players afterwards.

Bergkamp: the real Dennis the Menace

Never mind Ian Wright, the real bad boy in the Arsenal camp is his softly-spoken buddy, Dennis Bergkamp.

Yes, the same Dennis Bergkamp who is so scared of flying he would rather drive 1,400 miles than get on a plane for Arsenal's Uefa Cup tie against PAOK Salonika in Greece this month.

The same Bergkamp whom coaches once despaired of ever showing the passion to go with his outstanding football talent.

Bergkamp, right at the heart of the post-match incidents that landed Wright in trouble after last Wednesday's turbulent draw at Leicester, picked up his third caution in consecutive matches in Saturday's North London derby against Tottenham.

It means that the unassuming Dutchman - to use the adjective most frequently attached to his name - is only two yellow cards from suspension as Arsenal maintain an unwelcome reputation for poor discipline under manager Arsene Wenger.

Arsenal, whose record of behaviour was only marginally better than arch bad-boys Leeds and Chelsea last season, have already racked up 13 bookings, with Steve Bould also on a personal count of three.

Chelsea have been little angels by comparison, with a mere six cautions so far, although Frank Sinclair's indiscretion on Saturday leaves them in no position to gloat.

Sinclair apart, Ruud Gullit's squad system will not need to accommodate suspensions just yet, which is more than can be said for the Crystal Palace team with which Steve Coppell is trying to establish a foothold in the Premiership on thinly stretched resources.

Defender David Tuttle is already just one caution away from the new statutory five-card ban, matching strides with Coventry's Paul Williams as the Premiership's worst serial offender so far.

NOISES OFF...

This is a squad game. If you want to be an individual, you should play tennis. Ruud Gullit, explaining his decision to leave out Gianluca Vialli even after his four goals against Barnsley

Coventry deserved better than they got. It wasn't fair but we won 3-0. What can I say? Alex Ferguson on a result that failed to reflect a sub- standard show by Manchester United

Now I come to think of it, the chairman has been on the phone more than usual this week. But I don't think there is a problem. Brian Little, relieved that "Deadly" Doug Ellis can celebrate some Villa points at last

It is amazing and frustrating that we have played so well in the last two games yet have taken only two points. But the Championship is a long race. Arsene Wenger, undaunted by Arsenal's failure to win the north London derby

He was finding it hard to prepare mentally and it was getting in the way of our preparations for this game. That's all I've got to say. Bryan Robson, with what sounded suspiciously like the last word on Fabrizio Ravanelli

Rumours...

fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

So who knows where Fabrizio Ravanelli will show up next? Deportivo La Coruna, according to the Sunday Mirror, who reckon that the Spanish club are favourites to land Middlesbrough's unhappy Italian for pounds 7.5m... the News of the World, meanwhile, say the silver-haired striker was offered pounds 800,000-a-year to join Everton but would not accept what amounts to a pay cut from his pounds 42,000-a-week Teesside wages unless Middlesbrough paid him pounds 1m in compensation...the Mail on Sunday keeps all options covered by naming Everton, Deportivo, Real Zaragoza and Borussia Dortmund as contenders for his signature...the Mail reckons Everton will instead pay Manchester City pounds 2m for Uwe Rosler, a story echoed in the People and the Mirror... elsewhere, the Mirror and Express share the view that Liverpool are ready to offer Jason McAteer as well as cash to land pounds 5m-rated defender Massimo Paganin from Internazionale in the face of competition from Blackburn and Newcastle... Manchester United are reviving their interest in Milan's Zvonimir Boban (Mirror and News of the World), and have supposedly taken an option on Oliver Bierhoff, currently with Udinese, with a view to signing the German striker after next summer's World Cup finals.

Missing person

Mark Kennedy

(Liverpool)

The pull of a shirt peg in the Anfield dressing room is likely to remain strong despite the continuing anonymity of the former Millwall winger Mark Kennedy, who has been granted just 15 first-team appearances, the majority from the subs' bench, since his pounds 1.5m transfer from south London in March 1995. Still only 21, the Dubliner has time on his side to relaunch his career elsewhere, although there is a danger, apparently, in lingering too long among the red-shirted reserves. Recently linked with a move to Blackburn, but their manager Roy Hodgson said: "I've never heard of him."

Watch out for...

Kenny Lunt (Crewe Alexandra)

A similar fate to Kennedy could await Dario Gradi's latest youthful discovery, reported yesterday to be arousing Roy Evans' interest. Lunt is just 17 yet has been playing with such authority in Crewe's midfield that it has not only been Liverpool scouts making favourable reports. The Football Association's coaching supremo Howard Wilkinson has also been impressed, drafting Lunt into his Under-18 squad.

THE ELEVEN

Eleven Premiership club League goalscoring records least likely to be broken

Dixie Dean (Everton) 349

Vic Watson (West Ham) 298

Steve Bloomer (Derby) 292

Arthur Chandler (Leicester) 259

Nat Lofthouse (Balton) 255

Roger Hunt (LIverpool) 245

Jimmy Greaves (Spurs) 220

Harry Hampton (A Villa) 215

Bobby Charlton (Man Utd) 199

Andy Wilson (Sheff Wed) 199

Mick Channon (Soton) 185

Family tree

Opponents of the Dr Martens Premier League leaders Forest Green Rovers can be forgiven for imagining themselves in a bad dream when they confront the intimidating figure working the West Country side's left flank.

But the striking resemblence with West Ham's fearsome cult hero Julian Dicks is no coincidence - it is his elder brother, Grantley. Like the 28-year-old Premiership defender, Grantley wears his hair closely cropped and, until his recent conversion to a midfield player, made his reputation in Julian's favoured left-back berth.

"I'm a bit shorter and wider but otherwise we look pretty similar," Grantley said. Parental example inspired the brothers. "Our dad, Ronald, played rightback for Frome and Shepton Mallet in the Western League and we wanted to be like him," Grantley said.

While Julian's talent took him away from the Bristol family home at 14 to begin his career with Birmingham City, Grantley's development came later. He was 24 before going semi-professional with Bath City, having played previously for Paulton Rovers. He combines football with work as a warehouse manager.

MISTAKEN

IDENTITY

Don't be surprised if movie star Glenn Close one day reveals a fatal attraction for Arsenal Football Club. So deep is her apparent affection for the Gunners she even styled her hair like Ray Parlour's in the hope of getting a game.

Good boys

THE PREMIERSHIP'S

LEADING SCORERS

Chris Sutton

(Blackburn)

Premiership 6

Dennis Bergkamp

(Arsenal)

Premiership 5

Kevin Gallacher

(Blackburn)

Premiership 5

Benito Carbone

(Sheffield Wednesday)

Premiership 4

Gianluca Vialli

(Chelsea)

Premiership 4

and bad boys

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

1 Crystal Palace 15 0

Four cautions already for David Tuttle

2 Arsenal 13 0

Three yellows for Bergkamp and Bould

3 Coventry 12 0

Four bookings for John Williams

4= Tottenham and Sheff Wed 11 1

PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK

NIGEL MARTYN

LEEDS

IGOR STIMAC

DERBY

GARY PALLISTER

MAN UTD

SOL CAMPBELL

TOTTENHAM

LARS BOHINEN

BLACKBURN

SIMON GRAYSON

ASTON VILLA

BENITO CARBONE

SHEFF WED

DAN PETRESCU

CHELSEA

STAN LAZARIDIS

WEST HAM

CHRIS SUTTON

BLACKBURN

JOHN HARTSON

WEST HAM

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