FOOTBALL: THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Keller yanked from O'Neill

It is a wonder that the average Premier League manager can open his office door these days judging by the number of promotional videos stacking up on behalf of overseas stars struck by wanderlust. Lazio's Pierluigi Casiraghi is the latest to announce an apparently long- nurtured (but previously secret) desire to play in English football.

However, placing your ambitions in foreign hands can have unexpected pitfalls, as Leicester City are discovering.

Delighted though they were to capture the American goalkeeper Kasey Keller - hero of their recent 2-0 victory over Newcastle - for a mere pounds 900,000 from Millwall, the Filbert Street club have belatedly discovered they will benefit rather less from their investment than anticipated.

Every club accepts that an overseas player worth his salt is likely to be asked to represent national interests from time to time. Now that the English programme has so many breaks in support of Glenn Hoddle's cause, this is not a problem in many instances, especially when other European nations are involved.

But whereas European international fixtures tend now to coincide with England dates, programmes for other nations do not. Leicester, having been forced to manage without Keller at Derby nine days ago, have been horrified to discover they may lose their bespectacled shot-stopper four more times before Christmas.

"To be fair, we signed him before the USA had arranged their fixtures," the City manager, Martin O'Neill, conceded. "But when we were doing the transfer we were assured there would be no big problems, the Americans would be very co-operative. That is far from how it has turned out."

Brooking looking bad

The idea is quite preposterous. What could Trevor Brooking, the gentleman of English football, the straddler of a thousand fences, that most scrupulously fair of BBC pundits, possibly have said on a football field to cause a Georgian journalist to floor him with a right hook?

But it did happen, somewhat taking the gloss off the BBC man's return to the England colours in the media match that preceded the real purpose of his presence in Tbilisi on Saturday. The former West Ham player suffered several crude tackles without losing his legendary cool but eventually decided he had taken one scything whack too many. By his own standards, he positively exploded with rage.

"There was what you might call a verbal exchange," he said.

A verbal exchange? Involving our Trevor? Heaven forbid.

"Apparently, while this was going on," he continued, "another fellow ran 20 yards. I just saw him at the last minute from the side and he thumped me with a real right hook.

"He must have caught me with a ring or something because he cut me wide open just above the right eye."

Two Georgians were sent off by the referee, Neil Harman, of the Daily Mail, and the unfortunate victim needed four stitches.

"I only ever had three bookings in my career and I have never been involved in anything like this," Brooking added.

"Then again, I always had Billy Bonds to look after me. Who is there to help me this time? Ray Wilkins!"

NOISES OFF...

"I have seen improvement in him already. I'm not saying he is the finished article, but he's shown people he is trying to change - and doing it without it affecting him as a footballer." - Glenn Hoddle on Paul Gascoigne's performance in Tbilisi.

"The lads have been brilliant with me and I really appreciate that because they could have gone the other way." - Gascoigne on his England team-mates.

"Tommy has had two years of total misfortune with injuries and the death of his young son, and it has been a very sad time. I brought him back in place of Alan Fettis because I felt Tommy would bring more presence and organisation. He did and I'm very pleased for him." - Bryan Hamilton, the Northern Ireland manager, after the Forest goalkeeper's heroic performance against Germany.

"I was not the star tonight. They were all stars. It was a team effort and to play behind that defence gave me a lot of confidence because they conceded nothing." - Wright, modestly declining the praise.

"We've hit rock bottom. The players have all said they are at the lowest ebb of their careers and so am I." - Bobby Gould, after Wales' drubbing in Eindhoven.

"I did not want to be a pounds 8.5m sideshow and playing in the reserves would be a sideshow. That's what it felt like last year." -

Stan Collymore, Anfield outcast.

Take a bow

DAVID MELLOR

The man is clearly a dedicated professional, whatever critics may say about the pomposity which irritates some listeners to Six-O-Six. And whoever allowed him behind the microphone with that throat on Saturday deserves a mention, too, (assuming he or she has not been assigned to other duties).

Red card

ALEX FERGUSON

Whose decision to play Ryan Giggs in a reserve match against Nottingham Forest on Saturday was probably the right one for both player and club but cannot have been well received by his beleaguered Welsh team-mates, obliged again to manage without Gigg's talents against the Netherlands.

Rumours...

fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

As Middlesbrough wait to see whether Emerson returns to the Riverside tomorrow, The People believes manager Bryan Robson is lining up a swap deal to bring former Manchester United team-mate Paul Ince back to England from Internazionale in a straight swap for his rumoured runaway, suggesting that Robson's recent visits to Italy may have had a hidden agenda. He also has a shopping list of Italian defenders. Paul Kitson, kicking his heels among Newcastle's abundance of attackers, may be joining Celtic for pounds 1.5m, according to the News of the World, who reckon that Phil Neal should be looking over his shoulder for Ian Rush as Manchester City seek a successor to Steve Coppell. Meanwhile, the Mirror says Bruce Rioch is so confident of landing the Blackburn job that he has told "friends" to bet on his appointment. Mark Draper, out of favour at Aston Villa, may figure in a package deal designed to land Stan Collymore from Liverpool, according to The People.

Missing person

Geoff Thomas (Wolves)

A year and two months after his last comeback ended in disappointment, the former England midfielder is setting his sights on a pre-Christmas return at Molineux. Restricted by serious knee injuries to just 24 first- team matches since Graham Taylor paid pounds 800,000 to Crystal Palace for him in the summer of 1993, Thomas is back in reserve team action.

Watch out for...

Carl Asaba (Brentford)

After starting the season with 11 goals in 13 matches, the south London- born striker found himself being hailed as the new Ian Wright, a distraction which may explain a subsequent goal drought and the loss of his first- team place.

MISTAKEN IDENTITY

Bobby Gould

Max Clifford

PR is a big part of management these days, but after the humiliation in Eindhoven the Welsh FA must be starting to regret choosing Max Clifford to run the national team. "As a coach, it is obvious I've got to improve," the grey-haired man with the bushy black eyebrows confessed on Saturday evening, his cover finally blown.

Good boys

NATIONWIDE LEAGUE'S LEADING SCORERS

Mike Conroy

(Fulham)

15

Graeme Jones

(Wigan Athletic)

14

Division Three 13;

Coca-Cola Cup 1

John McGinlay

(Bolton Wanderers)

13

Division One 11;

Coca-Cola Cup 2

Mike Sheron

(Stoke City)

12

Division One 9;

Coca-Cola Cup 3

England's experience of playing Georgia may be new but Tbilisi will have been familiar at least to Glenn Hoddle, who trod the long corridor from the dressing-rooms to pitch as a player when England met the USSR there in March, 1986. How strange that he seemed to forget how long the journey took at half-time on Saturday .

Hoddle was selected for Bobby Robson's 40th match as England manager, partnered by Ray Wilkins, Gordon Cowans and Chris Waddle. Gary Lineker had Peter Beardsley for company up front, with Viv Anderson, Mark Wright, Terry Butcher and Kenny Sansom providing Peter Shilton's defensive shield.

England won 1-0, courtesy of a classic 67th-minute goal by Waddle, whose long pass to the corner was retrieved by Beardsley and returned as a perfect cross, which the winger gleefully hammered home at the far post.

The result was particularly pleasing to Robson, avenging a 2-0 defeat when the Soviets visited Wembley in the summer of 1984.

The Soviet side missed a first-half penalty in Tbilisi and themselves were barracked by the crowd, many of whom cheered for England.

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

1 Gillingham

Three bookings and a sending-off on Saturday for the Division Two side

2

39

2 Lincoln City

John Beck's side heads the Third Division card count

2

37

3 Hartlepool Utd

Five yellows on Saturday for Division Three serial offenders

2

35

4 Portsmouth

After David Hillier's debut dismissal, Portsmouth are the nation's red leaders

5

26

Comments