PAULO WANCHOPE'S unpredictability brought him 16 goals in his first season with Derby and his ability to bamboozle defences largely explains why the Rams are locking horns with Aston Villa at the top of the Premiership today.
The Costa Rican international, who scored the goal which knocked Manchester City out of the Worthington Cup in mid-week, had looked doubtful with a leg injury, but there is to be no respite for John Gregory's Villa, with Wanchope aiming to put Derby on top of English football for the first time since 1975.
"Sometimes he is breathtaking and does some quite extraordinary things but then will do the most stupid thing you've ever seen," the Villa manager said. "But his record last season as a goalscorer was tremendous and he is a handful. He'll have four people around him and yet will still come away with the ball. He'll be the sort of player we will not have come across before this season."
Villa head the table by two points from Derby and Gregory is surprised to be there: "It's purely down to the fact that one or two of the big hitters have started slowly," he said. "We feel we can compete with anybody. We possibly lack a bit of guile but that will come in time. We went top of the league a fortnight ago and my and the players' big test is staying there. Paul Merson is the only one who has experienced this before with Arsenal."
Gregory played under Derby manager Jim Smith for a short spell at Queen's Park Rangers in the mid-1980s before being sold, ironically to Derby. "He sold me very quickly! I played the first 11 games he was there and then I was out," Gregory said. "It turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me because I got the chance to work with Arthur Cox. The time spent with him was very influential on my career as a manager."
A highlight of the confrontation should be the contest between the Villa defender Gareth Southgate (left) and the Derby striker Stefano Eranio (right). Stan Collymore could also be called to arms in a bid to prevent Derby going top. The Americans were pulling out of Vietnam the last time the Rams were there and the chances of Derby experiencing such heady heights again tonight are high after three wins in a row and only two goals conceded in six Premiership games.
The Argentinian centre-back Horacio Carbonari, who has not played since damaging knee ligaments on the opening day of the season, could return. "There is an outside chance that Horacio might - and it's a big might - come into the equation," Smith said.
ASTON VILLA (from): Bosnich, Charles, Ehiogu, Southgate, Barry, Wright, Thompson, Taylor, Hendrie, Joachim, Merson, Vassell, Grayson, Ferraresi, Draper, Oakes.
DERBY COUNTY (from): Hoult, Laursen, Prior, Delap, Eranio, Carsley, Bohinen, Powell, Schnoor, Baiano, Sturridge, Wanchope, Carbonari, Poom, Kozluk, Harper, Hunt, Elliott, Bridge-Wilkinson.
Injured: Aston Villa: None. Derby County: Igor Stimac (hamstring).
Suspended: Aston Villa: None. Derby County: None.
Last season: No fixture
GORDON STRACHAN is not usually a man of few words unless the subject is a possible return to Leeds should George Graham depart to Spurs. "I am saying nothing," he said yesterday, but was more forthcoming about Coventry's trip to The Valley. "I expect a footballing match," the Sky Blues' manager said. "It will not be highlighted by the press, there won't be too many super-pundits at our game, so we can go out and try to enjoy it." The enjoyment for Roland Nilsson and Paul Telfer is a return to fitness which could see them on the bench.
Andy Hunt has yet to open his account for Charlton this season and is still chasing his 100th career goal, but Alan Curbishley is backing the striker to score soon. "Andy's been one of our most consistent players and one the rest of the team appreciates," the manager said. "He has played as well as anyone, he just hasn't knocked that goal in. He's got to do that and get things going." With only one win from six games, Charlton need Hunt's hunting instinct to return today.
CHARLTON ATHLETIC (from): Ilic, Mills, Powell, Redfearn, Rufus, Youds, Newton, Kinsella, Hunt, Mendonca, Robinson, Brown, Steve Jones, Mortimer, Keith Jones, Allen, Petterson..
COVENTRY CITY (from): Hedman, Shaw, Edworthy, Wallemme, Clement, Burrows, Telfer, Boland, Boateng, Quinn, Shilton, Dublin, Whelan, Soltvedt, Gavin Strachan, Ogrizovic.
Injured: Charlton: none. Coventry: none
Suspended: Charlton: none. Coventry: none.
Last season: No fixture
GIANLUCA VIALLI gave the critics who have labelled his players as lazy mercenaries and foreign millionaires who are not good enough for the Premiership a feel of Italian shoe leather yesterday.
"When most people talk about Chelsea, they say that we are millionaire players, just lazy foreigners or a team which likes to play nice football but is not able to be tough or fight when the situation is difficult," the player-manager said. "But I know that my players have got the famous fighting spirit that everyone talks about in England. The way they turned the match around at Blackburn on Monday, to win from 3-2 down with eight minutes to go, shows that is not true. It's not right to think that because they're foreigners then there must be something wrong with them - either they must be cheats, lazy, fat, with the wrong attitude or crazy."
Bryan Robson would agree as his Colombian striker, Hamilton Ricard, is the Premiership's top scorer with seven goals in his last six games. "When their players get used to the English style of football I think Chelsea will be the closest rivals to Manchester United and Arsenal to win the League," Robson said.
CHELSEA (from): De Goey, Kharine, Hitchcock, Petrescu, Leboeuf, Babayaro, Desailly, Le Saux, Ferrer, Duberry, Lambourde, Di Matteo, Poyet, Wise, Newton, Laudrup, Nicholls, Morris, Vialli, Zola, Flo, Casiraghi.
MIDDLESBROUGH: Schwarzer; Gordon, Vickers, Festa, Pallister, Mustoe, Gascoigne, Beck, Townsend, Ricard, Cooper.
Injured: Chelsea: none. Middlesbrough: none.
Suspended: Chelsea: none. Middlesbrough: none.
Last season: 1-0
EVERTON RECEIVED a public warning from the FA yesterday about their disciplinary record having collected 25 bookings and two red cards this season. One of the major culprits, Olivier Dacourt, is suspended but Marco Materazzi, sent off in midweek, will miss the Merseyside derby on 17 October.
More pleasantly for Walter Smith John Collins returns today after being on the bench on Wednesday as a precaution because of a chest infection. Nick Barmby and Dave Watson, also substitutes against Huddersfield in the Worthington Cup, are likely to return, although Danny Cadamarteri is threatening Barmby's place up-front alongside Duncan Ferguson.
Blackburn had their own problems with the officials during Monday's fractious home game against Chelsea and, with Kevin Davies out, and Chris Sutton and Kevin Gallacher uncertain to make the trip to Goodison, Martin Dahlin will lead their attack. Winger Damien Duff, missing for three matches with a thigh problem, could be set for a recall.
EVERTON (from): Myhre, Cleland, Unsworth, Materazzi, Watson, Ball, Hutchison, Collins, Barmby, Ferguson, Oster, Cadamarteri, Tiler, Simonsen, Jevons, Farrelly, Madar.
BLACKBURN ROVERS (from): Flowers, Dailly, Henchoz, Peacock, Davidson, Perez, Sherwood, Flitcroft, Wilcox, Sutton, Dahlin, McKinlay, Kenna, Johnson, Dunn, Filan, Duff, Davies, Gallacher.
INJURED: Everton: None. Blackburn: Davies, Gallacher, Sutton
SUSPENDED: Everton: Dacourt (one match), McCann (final game of three). Blackburn: None.
Last season: No fixture
NOT QUITE the player you would associate with sexy football, but Newcastle's David Batty can set the pulses racing in other ways and he may well get the chance to make his first appearance of the season today.
With the England midfielder having served his suspension and recovered from an ankle problem, manager Ruud Gullit has the means to stiffen the spine of a team who still need attention even though they have scored nine goals in the last two Premiership matches. "We are getting better, that's for sure, but it's still going to take some time to get everything right," Gullit said. "We are not even close to where I want us to be."
An Achilles tendon injury may force Forest's Thierry Bonalair to sit out the game, with Andy Gray ready to take the Frenchman's place on the left side of midfield. Neil Shipperley, Forest's pounds 1.5m signing from Crystal Palace, could make his debut even though he arrived nursing a hernia.
NEWCASTLE UNITED (from): Given, Watson, Glass, Dabizas, Charvet, Pearce, Gillespie, Shearer, Lee, Solano, Speed, Dalglish, Barton, Albert, Pistone, Batty, Perez..
NOTTINGHAM FOREST (from): Beasant, Louis-Jean, Bonalair, Rogers, Chettle, Armstrong, Stone, Quashie, Johnson, Gray, Darcheville, Shipperley, Freedman, Harewood, Edwards, Dawson, Crossley.
Injured: Newcastle: Andersson (ill), Guivarc'h (ankle). Nottingham Forest: Woan, Bart-Williams, Hodges, Thomas, Gemmill, Lyttle.
Suspended: Newcastle: None. Nottingham Forest: None.
Last season: 2-0
WIM JONK is looking to take out his early-season frustration on his close friends Marc Overmars and Dennis Bergkamp, who both urged him to quit PSV Eindhoven and join Wednesday in a pounds 2.5m deal this summer.
While everything at Highbury may be rosy for the Gunners' Dutch duo, 31-year-old Jonk admits he has struggled to adapt to the English game with Wednesday. The low-point came on Tuesday night when the midfielder was man-marked out of a humiliating Worthington Cup defeat by Third Division Cambridge. "I've had a few poor results in Dutch football, but this was a new experience for me and one I don't want to repeat," he said.
Alex Manninger makes his first appearance of the season for Arsenal because keeper David Seaman has a shoulder muscle injury. Right-back Lee Dixon is suspended which could mean a full debut for Argentinian Nelson Vivas . Emmanuel Petit returns after missing the 3-0 win over Manchester United with an ankle injury and replaces Stephen Hughes in midfield.
SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY (from): Pressman, Atherton, Jonk, Newsome, Walker, Carbone, Whittingham, Booth, Di Canio, Sanetti, Humphreys, Briscoe, Oakes, Hinchcliffe, Sedloski, Thome, Magilton, Alexandersson, Barrett, Clarke.
ARSENAL (from): Manninger, Vivas, Keown, Adams, Winterburn, Parlour, Garde, Vieira, Petit, Grimandi, Overmars, Bergkamp, Anelka, Hughes, Wreh, Bould, Ljungberg, Taylor.
Injured: Home: Petter Rudi (hamstring). Away: David Seaman (shoulder).
Suspended: Home: Graham Hyde. Away: Lee Dixon.
Last season: 0-1
GEORGE GRAHAM is guaranteed a mixed reception from both sets of supporters. Heavily trailed as becoming Spurs' new manager he takes his (final?) Leeds side to White Hart Lane with his Dutch striker Clyde Wijnhard ready for a recall after being left out of last week's 0-0 draw against Aston Villa.
Graham is fully prepared for the anticipated stick. "I'm not going to let all this affect me. I've been in the game too long to let that happen. I don't expect it to affect the players either. I'll be in charge of the Leeds United team at White Hart Lane and I expect the players to go out there and do their best - and, hopefully, get the right result.
"The fans of both teams will be coming to see their side try to win a match - not to talk about me."
Tottenham's Les Ferdinand is available after missing Wednesday's Worthington Cup tie with a stomach upset but David Ginola missed training yesterday with the same complaint. Spurs welcome back their Norwegian striker Steffen Iversen, who has been out since December with a knee injury.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (from): Baardsen, Walker, Segers, Carr, Berti, Calderwood, Nielsen, Fox, Anderton, Ferdinand, Armstrong, Edinburgh, Ginola, Vega, Iversen, Dominguez, Sinton, Campbell, Clemence, Gower.
LEEDS UNITED (from): Martyn, Haaland, Radebe, Wetherall, Sharpe, Wijnhard, Hasselbaink, Ribeiro, Bowyer, Hopkin, Granville, Lilley, Halle, Kewell, Harte, Hiden, Molenaar, Robinson.
Injured: Tottenham None. Leeds: Kelly, Maybury, Robertson, Beeney.
Suspended: Tottenham: None. Leeds: None.
Last season: 0-1
JOE KINNEAR'S Wimbledon side have defied many people's expectations by starting the season well and moving into the Premiership's top five. Martin O'Neill's Leicester, expected to attain more than the one win they have achieved, are currently 17th in the Premiership, just four points off the bottom. O'Neill believes it is only a matter of time before his team start picking up valuable points. "Obviously we would have liked a few more points but it is still early days and no-one is panicking," he said.
Leicester's Muzzy Izzet will have a late fitness test on an injured knee. Graham Fenton comes back into the squad after injury but striker Ian Marshall is still unavailable with hamstring problems. Kinnear is to recall the regulars who were rested for the 4-1 Worthington Cup win in midweek against Portsmouth. Goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, striker Marcus Gayle and midfielder Michael Hughes are all expected to return. Efan Ekoku, who scored twice against Pompey, is likely to play. The match is unlikely to end in a draw, statistically speaking, as none of the eight previous league meetings between the two have finished tied.
LEICESTER (from): Keller, Arphexad, Guppy, Ullathorne, Kaamark, Sinclair, Elliott, Walsh, Taggart, Lennon, Izzet, Zagorakis, Savage, Fenton, Wilson, Cottee, Heskey, Campbell, Parker.
WIMBLEDON (from): Sullivan, Cunningham, Kimble, Thatcher, Perry, Blackwell, McAllister, Earle, Roberts, M Hughes, Fear, Ardley, Ekoku, Euell, Cort, Gayle, Castledine, Heald.
Injured: Leicester: Marshall (hamstring). Wimbledon: No new injuries.
Suspended: Leicester: None. Wimbledon: Leaburn.
West Ham v
Last season: 2-4
SOUTHAMPTON, HAVING picked up their first point of the season against Tottenham last week, thanks to Matt Le Tissier's 200th goal for the club, will be anxious to gain their first win over a West Ham side still reeling from their Worthington Cup exit at the hands of Northampton. The Saints are likely to be recovering from being knocked out of the same tournament by Fulham, but defeats at The Dell are so common these days that one more probably hardly registered. Saints' manager David Jones has praised Le Tissier's efforts to get back to full fitness, and it may fall to the (sporadically) mercurial playmaker to rescue them again on Monday, and indeed this season.
The only positive omen for the Saints is that they managed a double over West Ham last season, winning 3-0 at the Dell and 4-2 at Upton Park. It seems unlikely, on current form, to be repeated. Julian Dicks is included in the Hammers squad and Eyal Berkovic, Stan Lazaridis and Neil Ruddock are also fit and available, but Steve Lomas, John Moncur and John Hartson are still at least a week away from first-team action.
WEST HAM (from): Hislop, Forrest, Impey, Pearce, Ferdinand, Dicks, Potts, Breaker, Berkovic, Lampard, Lazaridis, Keller, Wright, Sinclair, Abou, Omoyinmi, Hodges.
SOUTHAMPTON (from): Squad to be confirmed.
Injured: West Ham: Lomas, Moncur, Hartson. Southampton: Hirst, Beresford.
Suspended: West Ham: None. Southampton: None.Reuse content