FOOTBALL: THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS

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Shearer does not please all

Newcastle fans did not need convincing in the first place. But, thanks to an exhaustive poll conducted by FourFourTwo magazine, the Toon Army can claim now to have been right beyond argument: Alan Shearer is the greatest striker in the world.

The magazine asked more than 100 of football's great and good to cast their votes on this critical issue - and the results put Shearer in front of George Weah, Jurgen Klinsmann, Ronaldo and the rest in the global pecking order.

However, not everyone shares this view of England's revered leader. Indeed, there is a voice of dissent just down the road from St James' Park - at the Riverside Stadium in Middlesbrough.

It just so happens that the latest issue of Middlesbrough fan-mag Riverside Roar also has a poll of the world's top strikers - a one-man poll of Fabrizio Ravanelli.

The Italian's verdict is that Shearer has some way to go before he can be considered worthy of such an accolade. "He is the best centre-forward in England," Ravanelli says, "...and would do very well if he was to play in Italy. But conditions for forwards are different there and it is hard to say just how successful he would be."

Modestly omitting himself, Ravanelli places Argentina's Gabriel Batistuta at the top of his list, followed by Weah, Ronaldo, Patrick Kluivert and Alen Boksic, his own successor at Juventus, with Shearer way down in sixth place.

Almost as surprising, perhaps, is that Ian Wright - 15th in the FourFourTwo list and generally regarded as short of international class - has impressed Ravanelli enough to reach eighth in his list. Food, perhaps, for Glenn Hoddle's thoughts...

Turmoil in Turkey

If you thought Sam Hammam was a volatile character, the Wimbledon chairman would appear to be a model of decorum compared with Ali Sen, his counterpart with the Turkish champions, Fenerbahce.

Ali, it seems, has found himself in a spot of bother with the Turkish football federation after arranging for the national goalkeeper, Rustu Recber, to undergo overdue surgery next weekend instead of playing in Turkey's World Cup qualifier against Wales.

Fenerbahce have been threatened with fines or relegation if Recber's operation is not rescheduled - but Ali is not inclined to give in.

"Those who mess with Fenerbahce will one day find they have Fenerbahce's supporters to face," he said on Saturday. "Those who do this thing against Fenerbahce today will tomorrow be responsible for incidents in Turkey that should not happen."

A bit strong, perhaps, even by "Crazy Gang" standards. Then again, with Fenerbahce said to have around 25 million fans across the country, Ali probably feels he is in a relatively strong position.

"We are sad to observe Ali Sen's irresponsible statements inviting the public to chaos, anarchy and violence," the federation said by way of response.

Well yes, you would rather expect that they would be, wouldn't you?

MISTAKEN

IDENTITY

Le Tissier for Chelsea, the headlines said. The West End! But no. Once again the bright lights were spurned for the comforts of home. Once a Dell-boy, always a Dell-boy, apparently. And now look where he is. What a plonker! Then again, he does look a bit of a Rodney, doesn't he?

Good boys

THE PREMIERSHIP'S

LEADING SCORERS

Ian Wright

(Arsenal)

20

Fabrizio Ravanelli

(Middlesbrough)

16

Premiership 9;

Coca-Cola Cup 7.

Robbie Fowler

(Liverpool)

Premiership 5; Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 3.

13

Les Ferdinand

(Newcastle)

11

Alan Shearer

(Newcastle)

11

Tottenham's win at Highfield Road on Saturday plunged Coventry deeper into the struggle against relegation but the visit of the London side at least provided a reminder of better days for the Midlands club. Indeed, of their very best day.

It was by beating David Pleat's Tottenham side at Wembley in 1987 that Coventry reached the high point in their history, winning the FA Cup on their first visit to the historic stadium in 104 years.

Spurs, built around the supreme passing skills of Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle, the brilliant wing play of Chris Waddle and the prodigious goalscoring form of Clive Allen, were overwhelming favourites to lift the trophy for the eighth time against workmanlike opposition.

But the match evolved as a Wembley classic in which Allen scored his 49th goal of the season as Tottenham twice led but in which Coventry fought back with the utmost gameness, taking the match into extra time through a diving header by Keith Houchen.

The winning goal was a scrappy affair, a cross turned into his own net by Gary Mabbutt six minutes into extra time, but victory was no less deserved for it - and Houchen was feted as Coventry's hero.

A lower-division player much of his career, Houchen had been signed for just pounds 60,000 from Scunthorpe 10 months earlier. "Having been down at the bottom in this game, I appreciate what we have achieved more than most," he said afterwards.

PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK

Nigel Martyn

LEEDS

Peter Atherton

SHEFFIELD WED

Sol Campbell TOTTENHAM

Des Walker

SHEFFIELD WED

Graeme Le Saux

BLACKBURN

Neil Lennon

LEICESTER

Gianfranco Zola

CHELSEA

Ilie Dumitrescu WEST HAM

Teddy Sheringham

TOTTENHAM

Efan Ekoku

WIMBLEDON

Dean Sturridge DERBY

Take a bow

TAMWORTH

Runaway leaders of the Dr Martens League Midland Division, the Staffordshire club now boast the last surviving unbeaten record in English League and senior non-League (the Conference plus its three feeder leagues) football following Premier Division Gresley Rovers' 4-0 defeat to Sittingbourne on Saturday. Tamworth's record is P18 W16 D2 L0.

Red card

THE FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION

Whose refusal to review the dubious dismissal of the Arsenal captain Tony Adams against Newcastle is hardly likely to improve relations between clubs and officialdom. The FA will not consider Arsenal's appeal unless referee Graham Barber volunteers to reconsider his decision - and will not ask him to do so.

Rumours...

fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Tottenham officials were planning "hush-hush talks" with Liverpool defender John Scales yesterday, according to the News of the World, hoping (successfully, as it turned out) to prevent the player completing his move to Leeds today. The Sunday Express claims Spurs manager Gerry Francis has his mind on other matters, namely a pounds 5m bid for Scales' team-mate, Jamie Redknapp. While weighing up that one, the People adds, Liverpool are also pondering a pounds 12m offer from Juventus for Steve McManaman. Arsenal, meanwhile, have switched their sights from George Weah to the Liberian striker's pounds 8m-valued Milan team-mate Zvonimir Boban, according to the Sunday Mirror. The People says Middlesbrough will have to swallow their pride over Emerson and accept Barcelona's offer of pounds 8m plus Miguel Angel Nadal.

Missing person

Mark Bright (Sheffield Wed)

Even with only one fit striker, David Pleat still resists the temptation to recall Wednesday's erstwhile leading scorer, who has had just one outing as substitute this season. The 34-year-old signed a two-year contract in the summer, but then claimed he should be given a free transfer. He is not even listed among Wednesday's 26 numbered squad players.

Watch out for...

Stephen Carr (Tottenham)

Although he made his Spurs debut as a 17-year-old in 1993, the Dublin- born defender has had to wait until this season to add to his appearance tally. He is making up for lost time, however, and now seems to have claimed the right-back berth as his own after a number of assured displays.

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

1 Arsenal

Seventh caution of season for Patrick Vieira

2 Chelsea

Three more yellows against Everton

3 Middlesbrough

Frustration tells in mounting cautions tally

4 Leeds

Three booked at Middlesbrough on Saturday

1

42

0

42

1

41

1

39

NOISES OFF...

They have made a major impact, they are something special for the Premiership. Everybody is very happy to see them, so I don't understand the discussion.

Ruud Gullit, questioned about Chelsea's wisdom in signing three Italians after leaving one of them - Roberto di Matteo - on the bench against Everton.

We've won five out of six now, which is good in anyone's book. Before long, maybe someone will mention that we're going to have a say in what's happening at the top.

Brian Little, feeling that Aston Villa's challenge is not being taken seriously.

When we went a goal behind, I think my players were hoping the match would be called off because of the fog.

Martin O'Neill, on Leicester's performance against Blackburn.

I read in one paper that "unremarkable Sheffield Wednesday" would not give Liverpool any problems. It was the "unremarkable" I didn't like. My players are honest players who do a decent job week in, week out.

David Pleat, after watching his side upset the applecart at Anfield.

He was outstanding. There are a lot of good keepers in England but Nigel's up there with the best of them.

Bryan Robson, after Leeds goalkeeper Nigel Martyn had thwarted Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.

Clive Walker was aiming for somebody coming in at the far post but the ball dropped over my goalkeeper.

Roy McFarland, beaten Cambridge Utd manager, dismissing Woking's first goal as a fluke.

I saw their keeper off his line for a right-wing cross in the first half so when I got the chance in the second half I decided to go for it.

Walker, insisting it was not a fluke.

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