"Honest, boss. I was misquoted," Fabrizio Ravanelli, interpreter at his side, has been telling Bryan Robson, his manager, practically every day lately, his discontent with life at Middlesbrough trickling out through the Italian newspapers. "I want to stay, really I do."
"They stitched me up, boss," Gianluca Vialli, similarly compromised by injudicious asides, told Ruud Gullit, the Chelsea manager. "It wasn't meant to come out that way. I want to stay and fight for my place."
Nottingham Forest fans were expecting much the same from Bryan Roy, their disaffected Dutch striker, after his tabloid outburst against Stuart Pearce last week, when the winger accused his caretaker manager of "killing my career" by failing to give him a chance in Forest's relegation-threatened team.
In fact, there has been no such squirming from Roy. On the contrary. Quite unapologetic, he insisted on the eve of Forest's Cup triumph at Newcastle that he meant every word.
"I've been quiet for four months and that's a long time for me," he told Nottingham's Evening Post newspaper.
"I've got a reputation for being really outspoken in Holland, so it is only to be expected that I say something when we are bottom of the league and I'm not given a chance to get in the team. I got so frustrated I couldn't keep quiet any longer."
Is it not refreshing to come across such honesty? It seemed to impress Pearce, at any rate. Confirming Roy's view that he bears no grudge, Pearce dismissed the incident as irrelevant. "If he does his job on the field," Pearce said, "he can say whatever he likes."
Nevin hits the Net
Footballers are not renowned as the most accessible of sportsmen, guarding their exclusive addresses and ex-directory telephone numbers as closely as the figures on their wage slips.
A little surprising, then, to find one advertising his whereabouts to all and sundry and inviting supporters to get in touch, as the Scottish international Pat Nevin was at Everton on Saturday.
Nevin, taking a trip to his old hunting ground on a day off from First Division duty with Tranmere, has never been the most conventional player, but even from him this would seem to be going a little beyond the bounds.
However, although irate Irons fans wanting explanations for their side's latest missed opportunity will have to wait for Pat to hand out his mobile number, they can contact him on the Internet.
Nevin, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association and occasional contributor to these pages, reckons he is the first professional to have his own Web site, having accepted an invitation from Internet specialists The Big Room to go on-line.
Visitors to the Pat Nevin page are invited to ask questions on the life of the professional footballer, the state of the game, the future of the game and on Nevin's other passion, popular music.
They can also read a selection of his newspaper pieces as well as, he says, an revealing interview with his close friend Brian McClair, on the subject of "managers I have known".
E-mail messages should be directed to email@example.com.
Young men who resemble well-known footballers can earn up to pounds 150 per assignment as professional lookalikes. And cricketers are generally in need of winter work. None the less, it is a surprise that Warwickshire's South African all-rounder should need to top up his lucrative Edgbaston contract by pretending to be Aston Villa's Irish international defender.
I think people have a bit of a misapprehension about non-League football. They expect you to come here and belt the ball as far as you can. But we've got some quality players and we've proved it today.'
John Baldwin, manager of gallant Cup losers Hednesford.
"I think Coventry paid a very dear price because they sat back and thought `1-0 will do us' and we stepped up into another gear."
Geoff Chapple of Woking, whose hopes are still very much alive.
"I hung around for 10 minutes after the game waiting to congratulate their manager, but he was doing so many laps of honour I gave up in the end. Then I had to listen to their players singing in the bath for 40 minutes. This was Woking's day and good luck to them."
Gordon Strachan, Coventry manager.
"The thing about Wimbledon is that they never know when they are beaten. It's a great quality to have and I knew they would still have a go even after they went behind so late."
Alex Ferguson, pipped at the post by Joe Kinnear's battlers
"It was a fantastic strike, it even had me applauding. We had all the play in the second half but we were stopped in our tracks by that goal."
Barnsley's Danny Wilson, on Trevor Sinclair's overhead goal.
"I saw Nev [Southall] in the tunnel and he asked me if Chris [Waddle] was playing. I told him he was and said: `Nev, you'd better stay on your line today'."
Bradford's Chris Kamara, on Chris Waddle's wonder goal at Everton.
"You can measure how hard it is to take by the number of sleepless nights I'm in for. Tonight will certainly be one."
Joe Royle, Everton manager, whose Cup hopes were dashed again.
Take a bow
Their club in receivership, wages unpaid, who could have blamed the Bournemouth players for giving less than 100 per cent on Saturday? Instead, they secured a fine away win against third-placed Bristol City - a lesson in attitude some of their more pampered brethren might do well to heed.
Who may be a magnificent footballer, a talented linguist, a great philosopher and an all-round smart guy, but really should do something about Chelsea's habit of kicking lumps out of their opponents. Otherwise, the Premiership's most stylish side may also find themselves with the worst disciplinary record.
fact and fiction from the Sunday papers
Having cleared his Maine Road desk for Frank Clark, former Manchester City manager Steve Coppell is poised to move into Clark's old office at the City Ground, according to the News of the World, who say he has been talking to Stuart Pearce about a managerial double act at Nottingham Forest. During the speculation linking him with Chelsea, Paolo Maldini was actually rejecting the advances of Arsenal, the Mail on Sunday says, reporting that the Italian turned down a pounds 10m move to Highbury. Aston Villa are prepared to up their offer for Stan Collymore to pounds 8m, the NOTW believes, which may tempt Liverpool to sell and then bid for Internazionale's Paul Ince (MoS). Rangers have plans to take Blackburn's Colin Hendry back to Scotland with the Sunday Mirror predicting a pounds 2.5m move for the player, and to take David Ginola off Newcastle's hands, according to the People. More bad news for Blackburn from Mirror sources is that Lazio are to tempt prospective manager Sven Goran Eriksson to stay in Italy.
Tony Daley (Wolves)
The former England winger cost Wolves pounds 1.25m from Aston Villa in June 1994 but has started only 20 matches for the Black Country side - none since 30 December 1995. Had hoped to regain his place this season, but ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee on tour in Austria, the second major pre-season injury of a so-far ill-starred Molineux career.
Watch out for...
Andy Ducros (Coventry City)
After a promising first-team debut in August, the 19-year-old England youth international striker had been out of the picture for four months before taking his place among the Coventry substitutes on Saturday. Now fully recovered from a debilitating virus, he can anticipate an imminent second call-up.
Ian Wright 23
Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 2.
Robbie Fowler 21
Premiership 12; FA Cup 1
Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 3.
Fabrizio Ravanelli 20
Premiership 10; FA Cup 3
Coca-Cola Cup 7.
Alan Shearer 19
Premiership 16; FA Cup 1
Coca-Cola Cup 1; Europe 1.
Part of the romance of the FA Cup is its capacity to create instant heroes and by the time the Sunday newspapers hit the mat on 6 January 1991, Tim Buzaglo knew how it felt to become a household name overnight.
Buzaglo's hat-trick the previous afternoon had brought about the sensation of the third round, when Woking, then of the Isthmian League, eliminated Second Division West Bromwich with a stunning 4-2 victory at the Hawthorns.
However, obscurity reclaimed the 29-year-old forward almost as quickly. After Woking lost with honour at Everton in round four, Buzaglo suffered damage to cruciate ligaments and was out of football for 18 months.
"When I finally got back I'd lost a lot of speed and I had no inclination to play on," he said. "I moved to Marlow and then Wealdstone, but suffered a broken leg and dislocated foot and that about finished me off."
He set an Icis League record by scoring in 13 consecutive matches for Wealdstone but, at 35, is happy enough nowadays turning out for Weysiders, his local team in the Surrey Intermediate League (Division III). "I don't train," he said. "If I did I'd be in no state to play."
It is a far cry from Woking's return to Cup headlines but there is no bitterness on Buzaglo's part. In any case, his real ambitions always lay on another field, and he is now a stalwart of the Gibralter national cricket team, taking advantage of dual nationality.
"I've played in every World Cup since 1982 and practically every overseas tour," he said. "We're off to Malaysia at the end of this month."
THE PREMIERSHIP'S SERIAL OFFENDERS (League only)
1 Igor Stimac 10 / 0
2 Carlton Palmer 8 / 1
3 John Hartson 8 / 0
4 Emerson 8 / 0
FA CUP TEAM OF THE WEEK