FOOTBALL: THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS

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The Independent Online
Bright future for Huckerby

According to Dr Bill Gerrard of Leeds University, an academic with a fascination for football's transfer market, Coventry City's Darren Huckerby may currently be facing a battle against relegation, but could feel like he has won the Lottery within three years' time.

This, Dr Gerrard says, is because the flying 20-year-old for whom Gordon Strachan paid Newcastle pounds 1m in November, is in line to have a transfer value by the year 2000 of almost pounds 34m.

An outrageous forecast, perhaps, but then who would have guessed, three years ago, that Alan Shearer would move for pounds 15m?

Dr Gerrard, who has assembled data from more than 1,300 transfers over the last six years, claims an 80 per cent success rate in predicting fees. He bases his assessment of Huckerby not only on the young striker's evident potential, but on a transfer inflation rate of 15-20 per cent.

This information will clearly be of interest to the Midlands club. It will also be noted by Ilkeston Town, who happen to have on their books Darren's younger - and, it is said, more talented - brother.

Keith Alexander, manager of the Dr Martens League Midland Division side, rates Scott Huckerby as a better player than Darren. And he should know, given that he was the manager who brought the current scourge of Premiership defences into the limelight at Lincoln City.

"Scott has not got as much pace as Darren, but he has more tricks up his sleeve and a lot of skill," Alexander said. He'll accept pounds 40m (or near offer).

Role is hard to stomach

At the time of year when it is aching limbs that normally steer footballers in the direction of the treatment room, Gianluca Vialli has revealed that the physical side-effects of life in the English Premiership are not confined to those suffering from over-work.

The Italian, kept out of the Chelsea side by the rejuvenated Mark Hughes, is lucky if he gets to start two games a month, never mind two a week. But not playing enough, he says, is taking a physical toll.

Vialli, who made only his fourth start in Chelsea's last 19 matches at Middlesbrough on Saturday, confessed to the AFP news agency that his inactivity was causing him to suffer from nervous tension.

"Every time I go to a match I feel a stomach ache because of the tension and because I know that I will only play if things turn a certain way," he said.

"I almost wish the opposition will score first if it means I get the chance to go on and play," he continued miserably.

As witnesses to several of his disappointments will confirm, the 32-year- old normally soothes himself with a cigarette - but it is clear he is concerned about the long-term effects on his health. He will, he says, decide before the end of the season whether he should stay at Stamford Bridge.

"But," he adds hopefully, "perhaps I can adjust to the stomach aches and the role of a super sub."

Judging by his low-key showing at the Riverside Stadium on Saturday, he may have to do so fairly quickly.

MISTAKEN

IDENTITY

George Graham told everyone his new signing was a Dutchman called Robert Molenaar, but Leeds fans soon saw through that one. Now they shout "Arnie, Arnie" whenever he gets the ball. Unfortunately, Graham's defensive terminator is already facing judgement day after five yellow cards in 11 games.

NOISES OFF...

They have no chance of playing, so they will not be going."

A defiant Alex Ferguson, keeping Manchester United's injured England players at home, despite an official requirement to report to the England doctor.

"I've told him [Glenn Hoddle] that I don't think I can do myself justice at international level and if I can't do myself justice, I wouldn't expect him to pick me."

An honest Matt le Tissier, who will report for duty none the less.

"He's only played 90 minutes today because we are desperate for points."

Le Tissier's Southampton manager, Graeme Souness.

"I don't know what he is running on at the moment, but I'm just delighted."

Bryan Robson, praising Middlesbrough's turbo-charged young Brazilian, Juninho.

"Chelsea were not a team today and I expect more from my players."

Ruud Gullit, wondering where he can obtain a supply.

"Before John Hartson and Paul Kitson arrived, we couldn't even score goals in training."

Harry Redknapp, on the duo fuelling West Ham's current surge.

"We didn't get the ball to him enough."

Peter Reid, feeling his Sunderland team could have made more of their new signing Chris Waddle.

"We were poor and 2-0 flattered us."

Tony Parkes, who was offering no excuse for Blackburn's defeat against Aston Villa.

Take a bow

JOHN RUDGE

Whose shoestring Port Vale side, on which he has spent just pounds 75,000 (on one player) in 18 months, slipped within play-off range of the Premiership on Saturday, an achievement marked by the Stoke Sentinel, which ran a mock-up picture of the cloth-capped 52-year-old manager standing outside No 10.

Red card

DERMOT GALLAGHER

The Banbury referee, who should have awarded one to Duncan Ferguson after the Everton striker's apparent elbowing offence against David May. If it was not violent conduct, it was certainly serious foul play, either of which would warrant red, rather than the soft option of yellow that Gallagher chose.

Rumours...

fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Paul Ince will soon decide whether to quit Italy and return to England, according to the Sunday Mirror, who reckon Liverpool have made a bid to steal the England midfielder from under Arsenal's noses by offering a pounds 2.5m signing-on fee and pounds 18,000 a week. Meanwhile, the paper reckons Ince's teammate at Internazionale, Nicola Berti, could join Nottingham Forest in a pre-deadline move, even though he will be a free agent in the summer. Newcastle may make a pounds 6m bid for QPR's Trevor Sinclair, according to the News of the World, who report that Spurs defender Sol Campbell has turned down a seven-year contract worth pounds 4.4m. The People says that Tottenham's Ruel Fox could still join Forest in a swap deal for Ian Woan, but that Crystal Palace will resist moves for David Hopkin in the hope of collecting around pounds 4m in the summer. It also predicts that Derby could lose Aljosa Asanovic for pounds 2.5m to Everton, who will treble his pounds 3,000- a-week wage.

Missing person

Niall Quinn (Sunderland)

The Irishman's pounds 1.3m move to Roker Park turned sour after only six matches when he damaged cruciate knee ligaments, which seemed to spell the end of his season. Only 16 weeks after surgery, however, the striker is back in training and targetting a comeback in the North-east derby with Newcastle on 5 April.

Watch out for...

Lee Hughes (Kidderminster Harriers)

Teenage striker Hughes has boosted gates at Kidderminster, who seldom play without a large contingent of talent scouts checking on the GM Vauxhall Conference top scorer's progress. Harriers could collect pounds 400,000 from a summer sale.

Good boys

THE PREMIERSHIP'S

LEADING SCORERS

Robbie Fowler 28

(Liverpool)

Premiership 16; FA Cup 1

Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 6.

Fabrizio Ravanelli 26

(Middlesbrough)

Premiership 14; FA Cup 4

Coca-Cola Cup 8.

Ian Wright

(Arsenal)

Premiership 18; 25

Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 2.

Alan Shearer 23

(Newcastle)

Premiership 20; FA Cup 1

Coca-Cola Cup 1; Europe 1.

For Ferenc Puskas, who has been in London to celebrate his 70th birthday, the greatest regret was that time had robbed him of so many friends. He said as much to Billy Wright when they met at Molineux three years ago during a celebration of the Wolves win over Honved in one of the famous "unofficial world championship" matches of the 1950s.

Since then, he has lost Wright also, and with him the chance to reminisce more about the match which may well be recalled, three years hence, as the most extraordinary of all time.

England 3 Hungary 6: On 25 November 1953, a scoreline which ended the host nation's 45-year unbeaten record on home soil, coined the name "Magical Magyars" and launched Puskas, ostensibly a major in the Hungarian army but effectively a full-time professional footballer, on the way to becoming the most famous player in the world.

Nandor Hidegkuti, the deep-lying centre forward whose positioning so confused England's regimented defence, scored three of the goals, Puskas two. His first, in Wright's words, was the best he witnessed in 105 England games, a drag-back and shot that left this country's finest defender tackling thin air. "Geoffrey Green wrote in The Times that I was like a fire engine going the wrong way to the fire. It was a perfect summary," Wright recalled some years later.

Hungary were 4-1 up inside the first half-hour, leaving a 100,000 crowd bemused. That they should fail to win the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, where an unfancied West German side won 3-2 in the final, remains one of football's unfathomable mysteries.

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

1 Leeds 73 1

Yellow for Ian Rush on Saturday against Sheffield Wednesday

2 Arsenal 70 4

Eight bookings in 24 games for Patrick Vieira

3 Chelsea 65 1

Mark Hughes is facing another suspension

4 Middlesbrough 60 3

Italian defender Gianluca Festa booked on Saturday

PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK

Peter Schmeichel

MAN UTD

Denis Irwin

MAN UTD

Colin Cooper

NOTTM FOREST

Slaven Bilic

WEST HAM

Alan Wright

ASTON VILLA

Garry Parker

LEICESTER CITY

Nicky Butt

MAN UTD

Lee Sharpe

LEEDS UTD

Juninho

MIDDLESBRO

John Hartson

WEST HAM

Dean Sturridge

DERBY COUNTY

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