Football: The Sweeper

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Robson rages at Father Christmas

PREMIERSHIP CLUBS will be queuing up next summer to engage the services of the most successful Englishman ever to manage abroad when Bobby Robson's one-year contract at PSV Eindhoven expires. But those clubs who see him as the ideal director of football could be in for a surprise. He may have qualified last February to draw the state pension but judging by his response to a Champions League defeat at home to Kaiserslautern this week, he may not be ready just yet to swop his tracksuit for a VIP Lounge suit.

Coming off second-best against the Germans is not a new experience for Robson, but the manner of their 81st-minute winning goal, when a linesman at first appeared to rule that Jurgen Rische's header had not crossed the line and then changed his mind under pressure from the substitute's team-mates, really got Robson's blood boiling.

Wearing that incredulous look he had at the press conference following Maradona's Hand of God goal, the former England manager would have put many younger men to shame with his emotionally charged rhetoric, and he certainly startled some of the more conservative Germans present as he bellowed: "No goal ! No goal! No goal! No goal!" his voice growing steadily louder as he described the linesman's initial response, "and then all of a sudden he turns into Father Christmas!"

Robson's second spell at PSV looks like ending in relative failure, which would be a first for Robson during eight years on the Continent which have involved successful stints at Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Barcelona, as well as PSV first time around. But since they were forced to sell six of their best players at the start of the season, including Jaap Stam, it was always going to be a season of transition.

At least one of football's most respected elder statesmen will not suffer the indignity of the sack - he is only keeping the hotel seat at PSV warm until the Belgian, Eric Gerets, is free to take over next season.

"I was born in England, I started my career in England and I'll finish it in England", Robson said. "I'm doing it for Elsie [his wife] - she's been travelling with me for 20 years".

COLIN ADDISON may not have reached quite the same heights during his many spells coaching abroad, and it is unlikely that Robson will ever find himself parting company with Merthyr Tydfil, of the Doctor Martens League as his fellow former Baggie did recently, but I doubt whether even Robson has ever picked up a prize in the autumn. It seems that Aston Villa were not the only ones to come away with one this week after their visit to Celta Vigo - in their case, a 1-0 first-leg lead from their second- round Uefa Cup tie.

The former manager of West Bromwich Albion and a score of other clubs was invited to join Villa as their guest after they drew the Spaniards, whom Addison had coached back in the mid-80s. Upon arriving in Spain, Addison was invited out to lunch by the Celta president at a hotel he used to frequent all those years ago. As he walked into the restaurant he was met by its manager, who handed over a gallon bottle of whisky - it was Addison's prize as manager of the month 11 years before, which he had left behind after being given the sack. The whisky, now well matured, was carefully spirited home in Villa's skip.

With all this generosity extended to those with Villa and Albion connections, it will have pleased Birmingham City to know that they were not forgotten. The Celta Vigo club also distributed a handsomely embossed souvenir guide to the game which had kindly been translated into English. On the very first page beneath the club crest of the Real Club Celta de Vigo it said in large type: "Official Kit: Blue Shit, White Short, Blue Sochs", which promoted one Villa fan to enquire how Birmingham were getting on.

ASTON VILLA'S unending success this season has surprised many but John Gregory, the manager, refuses to accept that luck has anything to do with it, although he admits that as a player he was very superstitious. "I used to drive the same route to all my home matches as a player and would always play the same music, upbeat stuff like U2, on the car cassette player, but when I got the Villa job I decided to throw it all out of the window," he said.

"Why?" asked someone.

"Because it's all bollocks," he replied.

IT SEEMS that the term Flying Dutchman is something of a misnomer when it comes to the Dutch footballing fraternity. It is well know that it is inapplicable to Dennis Bergkamp but while the non-flying Arsenal striker shudders at the thought of a possible trip to Greece by road and rail - as he may be asked to undertake by his club should they need to win their final Champion's League fixture against Panathinaikos on 9 December - he should spare a thought for Estelle Cruyff. Due to her fear of flying, the daughter of Johan has to spend 10 hours travelling by road and train in order to be with her boyfriend, Ruud Gullit, in the North-east. Fortunately she can usually persuade the Newcastle United manager to make the 45-minute shuttle flight to her instead. How Arsenal must wish opposing teams were similarly disposed towards Bergkamp.

As You Were

IN 1971 the 19-year-old Martin O'Neill (left) left Derry City for Nottingham Forest, where he became an integral part of Brian Clough's side that won the First Division title in 1978 and the European Cup in 1979 and 1980 (above). He played 285 times for Forest, and scored 48 goals, as well as gaining 64 international caps for Northern Ireland. In December 1995, via playing spells at a host of clubs and managerial jobs in places as varied as Grantham Town, Shepshed Charterhouse and Wycombe Wanderers, he took over at Leicester, where he remains, if no longer so fresh-faced (right).

The price is right

"CAPITAL EFFORT from Dublin!"..."Big Les, one-nil!"..."Sweeper picks up the ball, he's going for a 17-1 treble! He's tipped Newcastle to beat Derby!! He's predicted the Merseyside derby draw!!! He's unearthed the Nottingham Forest Leeds stalemate!!!! There are punters in the bookies. They want to go to the pay window. They can now!" There are ten possible treble permutations in five games and Saturday's main Libero wager aims to turn the screw on the hapless bookies in style. Speedy Nicolas Anelka is fancied to score the first goal in what looks a 1-1 draw in tomorrow's Sky match while our old pal Oliver Bierhoff - despite his inability to convert a penalty against Cagliari last week - remains the best bet to score first in what could also be a 1-1 draw with Roma in tomorrow's Channel 4 Serie A fixture.

SWEEPER'S STAKING PLAN

SATURDAY LIBERO WAGERS

(Ten 50p trebles with Coral) Aston Villa to beat Leicester (8-13); Charlton to draw with West Ham (11-5); Sheffield Wednesday to draw with Everton (9-4); Tottenham to draw with Newcastle (9-4); Wimbledon to draw with Middlesbrough (9-4).

Derby v Manchester United

Dwight Yorke to score first in a 2-2 draw (50p at 60-1, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Stanley).

Southampton v Coventry

Liverpool v Nottingham Forest

First goal scorer double: Egil Ostenstad and Michael Owen (50p at 371/2- 1, Ladbrokes).

SUNDAY SKY MATCH

Blackburn v Arsenal

Score: 1-1 (pounds 1 at 11-2, generally)

First goal: Nicolas Anelka (pounds 1 at 6-1, Ladbrokes).

SUNDAY ITALIAN JOB

Milan v Roma

Score: 1-1 (pounds 1 at 11-2, Coral, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Stanley).

First goal: Oliver Bierhoff (pounds 1 at 4-1, Coral, William Hill).

ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 106.21!

TODAY'S BETS: pounds 10.90 (inc. 90p tax).

ON THE BOARD

Name: Mark Guterman.

Position: Chairman of Chester City FC.

Form: Property developer from Manchester.

Big Ideas: As recently as last year, Guterman was still hopeful that he could turn Chester into not only a successful football club, but also a viable business option. "My view of the future of this club is to make it successful, to make it go through the leagues, to make it develop players and to make us break even, first and foremost," he said at the time. He also revealed then that he had put together a consortium, effectively made of London banks, to buy Manchester City, and that his masterplan had been to take the Manchester side to the Premiership - "bringing in an extra nine or 10 million pounds a year from Sky" - while running Chester as a feeder club for the main business, which would subsidise the smaller club. The Manchester City bid did not work, however, the losses at Chester mounted - the debts are pounds 350,000-plus - and Guterman decided to cut his losses and put his 94 per cent share of the club up for sale in the Financial Times in July. "The past six months have tortuous for me, not only financially but personally," Guterman said. Chester are now potentially days from extinction. A High Court hearing on Monday will decide whether the club can continue trading after facing a winding-up order, but there may still be hope as the local council and the Chester Independent Supporters' Association look at options to save the club. Guterman's grand plans are unlikely ever to happen though - only pounds 2,100 has been raised in appeals to stave off a demise.

MY TEAM

Jonathan Pearce

Bristol City

Channel 5 commentator and radio presenter

"My dad took me to see Bristol City draw 0-0 with Derby in 1968 and I was hooked. Bristol City were one of the first clubs to film all their matches, and my dad made the videos so I had a lot of close involvement with the club, travelled on the coach and all that. I trained with the club and even had a trial but I broke my leg at 15. The saddest day of my life was when they wrote to me saying `no, we don't want you.' The best memory was winning at home against Portsmouth in the 1975-6 season to get promoted. It was the first time I got badly drunk in my life."

IN T'NET

Found on the Web: The sad closure of a Chinese football site.

Dear friends, thanks so much for your hearty support for this site and China soccer during these thousand days. Due to my heavy loaded work and new family, also due to the frustrating and CHEATING in Chinese soccer (as it is said, cheating is never forgived) I decide to give up maintaining this site. Thanks very much for your understanding.

Dongjin. [Links to other sites follow].

http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Midfield/6745/giveup.htm

Seen But Not Bought

BLACKBURN FANS used to be able to buy a classy Rovers passport holder (in real leather), but not any more. Whether the item was discontinued because the club is so hopeless in Europe, a Rovers' shop assistant could not say. She could however, recommend an alternative way for (albeit myopic) supporters to spend their money - on the Blackburn Rovers crested spectacle case, made from real leather, and costing only pounds 4. Splendid.

They're Not All Dennis Bergkamp

Unsung foreign

legionnaires No 11

RUNE VINDHEIM: The 24-year-old defender joined Burnley earlier this month on a free transfer from the Norwegian Second Division part-timers, Fana. He was brought to Burnley partly to provide company for compatriot Frank Kaval, who joined in mid-September from SK Brann Bergen. Vindheim himself had played at Bergen, but had not made the grade and was languishing at Fana before the big move to Turf Moor. After making an "outstanding" trial appearance in defence, Vindheim was moved to midfield, from where he has scored two goals in three games, including an injury-time equaliser against Notts County last week. Already said to be a huge hit with the fans, the player - on a two-year contract - is said to "run round with all the enthusiasm of a headless chicken, but without the legs or stamina."

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