Football: That Was The Weekend That Was

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Huntingdon celebrate 50 years by conceding 82 goals

It may be of little consolation to Everton, Huddersfield, Carlisle and Doncaster as they survey life from the bottom of their respective divisions, but it really is true that there is always somebody who is worse off than you are.

Take Huntingdon United, for instance. Though it might be argued that there is not quite so much at stake in the First Division of the uhlsport United Counties League, the dreadful season United are having to endure is every bit as hard to swallow for their suffering supporters.

Their playing record so far for 1997-98 reads: played 13, won 0, drawn one, lost 12. They have scored 11 goals and conceded 82. On Saturday they were beaten 11-1 away to Olney but even that was not their worst result. The previous weekend they went down 16-0 to Bugbrooke, prompting an emergency board meeting at which eight members voted to withdraw from the league in embarrassment. Happily, 10 voted to stay.

"We finished fifth last season, which for our first year in senior football was pretty encouraging," secretary Steve Thresh said. "But things started to go wrong for us when our manager, Andy Rossi, left us. He said he could no longer motivate the players."

Unfortunately for Huntingdon, when Rossi then reappeared as manager of nearby March Town United, six of those players were motivated to rejoin him there.

"We've struggled to attract new players. It is a shame because we had hoped to get into the Premier Division, which is only one step below the Dr Martens League."

If that were not enough, objections from neighbouring residents could force United to quit their present ground at the end of the season, while plans by the local council to find them a new home elsewhere have fallen through because of lack of funds.

"It is a sad situation quite apart from our results," Thresh added. "Sadder still because the club is actually 50 years old this year."

The official 1998 World Cup poster, which was unveiled at the weekend. It was designed by an art school student with no interest in football. Nathalie Le Gall, from Montpellier, was picked for her "naive and colourful painting".



The toughest part of having a budding footballer for a son is judging when to interfere and when to allow fate to take its course. For a parent himself engaged in the game, the dilemma can be more complicated still.

Frank Casper, whose goals once helped sustain Burnley as a First Division force, recognised the talent in his youngest son, Chris, at an early stage and it soon became clear he had the potential to turn professional. But then came GCSEs.

"He was good academically," Frank said. "He passed nine GCSEs, with good grades, too. We had to make a decision. His mum wanted him to stay on at school but there were lots of scouts watching him."

Chris chose football but then came a second dilemma. Frank was manager at Burnley and the obvious course was to take on Chris himself.

"He would have been a good signing but I was worried if the fact I was his father was clouding my judgment. In the end I thought it would be better for him to go out into the world on his own."

In the event he landed a contract with Manchester United, although the honour has been a double-edged sword. Now 22 and just back from a successful loan spell with Swindon, he has been offered a three-year deal but craves first-team football, posing another dilemma for Frank over where his future lies now.

Aldridge defies the age barrier

Students of the small print in the football results columns will have noticed the reappearance of a familiar name among the Tranmere Rovers goalscorers in the last couple of weekends - that of the veteran striker John Aldridge.

It was not planned. Despite topping Tranmere's charts with 21 goals last season, Merseyside's record-breaking goal machine really had planned to take a back seat this year to concentrate on his role as manager at Prenton Park. After all, he did celebrate his 39th birthday in September.

Indeed, up until nine days ago, he had played in only five matches all this season, each time coming on as substitute and usually not until inside the last 10 minutes.

Then along came a selection crisis. With several players injured, Gary Jones suspended and David Kelly on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, Aldridge had little choice but to name himself for the trip to Bradford City.

Naturally enough for a man with a career record better than a goal in every two games, he scored. What's more, it was the only goal in Rovers' first away win of the season.

It might have been a one-off. But last week saw Kelly join the injured list and a flu bug rampant in the Rovers dressing room. The player-manager had no option but to keep his place - and did the business again, heading home League goal number 359 as Tranmere beat Stoke 3-1.

Not that he is complaining. Quite the opposite, in fact. "I'm still short of match fitness but I've proved I still have something to offer and I'm happy to be part of the competition for places," he said. "Gary Jones wants to play in midfield, in any case."


Fact and ction from the Sunday papers

Ruud Gullit's apparent reluctance to sign a new contract with Chelsea should be worrying Ken Bates, according to the News of the World, who report that Milan's owner Silvio Berlusconi is determined to bring the Dutchman back to San Siro as coach for next season. The former Italian prime minister is ready to pay off Fabio Capello and offer Gullit a pounds 2m- a-year salary, not to mention the small matter of pounds 100m to spend in the transfer market to halt Milan's embarrassing decline.

Meanwhile, the writing is on the wall - or, at least, the back pages of the tabloids - for Birmingham manager Trevor Francis, whom the Sunday Mirror, People and News of the World all believe is about to be replaced by Steve Bruce. The former Manchester United skipper is seen only as a stop-gap, however, with Port Vale's long-serving John Rudge apparently targetted for a summer appointment.

Brian McClair is a target for Coventry (Mirror), who will not be impressed by the same paper's suggestion that Kenny Dalglish has moved ahead of them in the race for the Romanian striker Viorel Moldovan, whom Grasshopper Zurich will sell for pounds 3m.

The People reports that Juventus' French midfield star Didier Deschamps has been lined up to join Manchester United after the World Cup finals, with the Italians keen to land David Beckham as part of the deal.

Aston Villa's Savo Milosevic could be on the way to Atletico Madrid after turning down Napoli, says the News of the World, reporting that Villa suspect the Yugoslav has already signed a pre-contract with the Spaniards. Birmingham's Sports Argus, however, spotted Benfica coach Graeme Souness at Villa Park on Saturday.

Manchester City are ahead of Villa, Juventus, Barcelona and Paris St- Germain in the race to sign Montpellier's Ivory Coast striker Ibrahim Bakayoko, according to the People, who say City are the only club to have made a firm offer for a 20-year-old rated at pounds 4m.

The 1st Eleven

Gerry Francis' 11 Tottenham buys

Chris Armstrong pounds 4.5m

Espen Bardsen free

Jose Dominguez pounds 1.6m

Les Ferdinand pounds 6m

Ruel Fox pounds 4.2m

David Ginola pounds 2m

Steffen Iversen pounds 2.6m

Allan Nielsen pounds 1.65m

John Scales pounds 2.6m

Andy Sinton pounds 1.5m

Ramon Vega pounds 3.75m


Claus Thomsen


A pounds 900,000 buy from Ipswich in January, the tall Danish international midfielder looked like a desperation signing when Joe Royle took him on board. Granted a long run in Everton's midfield, he failed to impress the Goodison public and Royle's departure left him somewhat isolated. New manager Howard Kendall named him in his first line-up of the season, against Crystal Palace, but took him off after 64 minutes and despite his versatility - he can play central defence also - has preferred others since. Everton are courting offers for the 27-year-old but generating interest is proving difficult.

Michael Ricketts


The queue of managers frustrated by Leicester's refusal to sell Emile Heskey might switch their attention to 18-year-old Ricketts, a Birmingham- born striker who has the power and pace of the England Under-21 international and might prove just as good. Used sparingly at first-team level, he recently scored all four goals in a reserve-team victory over a Leicester side including Steve Walsh and Robert Ullathorne.

After his successful portrayal of over-the-top chat show host Alan Partridge, comic actor Steve Coogan looks to have created another masterpiece of characterisation in Scottish football pundit Alan Hansen. With his strident yet deeply perceptive views - and subtly clever references to a former playing career - Hansen could almost be taken as real.

Good Boys . . .

The Premiership's

Leading Scorers

John Hartson 14

(West Ham)

Dennis Bergkamp 12


Andy Cole 12

(Manchester United) Chris Sutton 11


Kevin Davies 10


Gianluca Vialli 10


. . . and Bad Boys

The Season's Red And Yellow Cards

Arsenal 34 1

Coventry 32 1

Leeds 32 1

Bolton 29 3

Everton 30 2

Premiership Team Of The Week

Lars Leese


Steve Watson Stephane Henchoz Steve Staunton Phil Neville

Newcastle Blackburn Aston Villa Man Utd

Keith Gillespie Paul Scholes Roberto di Matteo

Newcastle Man Utd Chelsea

Francesco Baiano


John Barnes Andy Booth

Newcastle Sheffield Wed