SPORT: THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS

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PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK

Neil Sullivan

WIMBLEDON

Philippe Albert NEWCASTLE

Jon Newsome SHEFFIELD WED

Gareth Southgate ASTON VILLA

Aljosa Asanovic DERBY COUNTY

Roy Keane

MAN UTD

Juninho

MIDDLESBROUGH

Dennis Wise CHELSEA

Gianfranco Zola

CHELSEA

Alan Shearer NEWCASTLE

Stan Collymore LIVERPOOL

Blow to squad mentality

It's all very well for Ruud Gullit to talk about building a squad mentality, with players happy to wait months for a first-team chance and still be ready to give their all. In fact, for the average footballer, the idea of merely making up the numbers amid a cast of superstars is close to professional purgatory.

John Spencer's relief at leaving Chelsea highlighted Gullit's difficulty in maintaining a happy ship at Stamford Bridge and it appears Kevin Keegan faces similar problems keeping smiles on faces at St James' Park.

This, at least, is the feeling that accompanied striker Darren Huckerby on his departure from Newcastle on Friday, when he joined Coventry for pounds 1m, going virtually from top to bottom of the Premiership with one signature. When Gordon Strachan allowed him on for the last 15 minutes against Aston Villa on Saturday, it was no surprise he should appear like a caged animal suddenly released.

Huckerby was transported from Lincoln to Newcastle a year ago in what must have been a 19-year-old's dream come true. But after making only two, barely noticed appearances as substitute, he sensed little hope of dislodging Alan Shearer, Les Ferdinand, Faustino Asprilla or even Paul Kitson from the black and white pecking order. Since the summer, he has not even enjoyed the release of playing in the reserves, which Keegan has scrapped.

"It was hard to leave one of the best teams in the world," Huckerby said, "but I have to think of my career. I think Keegan would have just gone on bringing in more players. Without even a reserve side, it was just a waste of time staying." And, he reckons, there are eight or nine others feeling similarly frustrated.

Forest in suspense

The assumption is that the gloom hanging over Nottingham Forest will be lifted any day now when the club announces a big-money takeover, with millions of pounds suddenly flooding into Frank Clark's transfer account and a mandate to buy his way out of trouble.

Clark himself, however, declines to share the excitement, consistently discussing the matter as a possibility rather than a probability. He has good reason.

The Forest board are still be trying to reach agreement on which offer to accept, a situation which threatens to prolong the club's crisis until beyond Christmas.

The field of bidders, which once stood at 16, has come down to two, each offering a pounds 15m cash injection with a flotation to follow. The problem, apparently, is that the appointment of accountants Price Waterhouse to advise on bids has made the situation no clearer.

After the withdrawal of a high-profile pitch by so-called video tycoon Grant Bovey, it was assumed that the consortium backed by Monte Carlo millionaire Lawrie Lewis and former Tottenham chairman Irving Scholar would be the only serious contender.

But Price Waterhouse are said to favour another group, comprising five Nottingham businessmen, and it may be that fresh bids, with extra enticements, will have to be made to break the deadlock, delaying the process even more.

MISTAKEN

IDENTITY

At last, the truth about the Arsenal manager's secret past can be revealed. You thought he was making his way as a coach at Cannes, Nancy and Monaco but all the time the Frenchman was leading a double life - as an Olympic middle-distance runner.

Take a bow

GEOFF THOMAS

After a 20-month battle for fitness following cruciate ligament surgery, the 32-year-old former England midfielder at last made the starting line- up for Wolves at Crystal Palace on Saturday, which was cause enough for celebration even without the joyful bonus of heading a 60th-minute winner against his former club.

Red card

FRANK LAMPARD REFRESHMENT STALL, WEST STAND, UPTON PARK

Which ran out of pies and hot water - that's no tea, coffee or Bovril - at half-time on Saturday. On a cold afternoon, all they could muster was Coke and chocolate. Come on, West Ham -with tickets costing up to pounds 24, that isn't good enough.

Rumours...

fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

A fly on the wall on the News of the World payroll says that the Middlesbrough manager Bryan Robson called both Emerson and Fabrizio Ravanelli to a "top Teesside restaurant" in a bid to keep his overseas stars happy at The Riverside. The Italian was assured of efforts to sign the Juventus defenders Sergio Porrini and Moreno Torricelli at a combined cost of pounds 6.5m but the Brazilian apparently stormed off in fury, not even waiting to see if the coffee had improved. The People, meanwhile, says that Robson is lining up a pounds 2m offer for Barnsley's Dutch defender, Arjan de Zeeuw. The same paper's sources suggest a Manchester City move for Newcastle's Lee Clark, also at pounds 2m. The Mail on Sunday believes Tottenham have made a pounds 4m offer for Nottingham Forest's Ian Woan but Bolton's pounds 2.25m joint offer for Mark Hughes and Terry Phelan has been rejected by Chelsea, according to the News of the World.

Missing person

David Rocastle (Chelsea)

John Spencer may have found the exit door at Stamford Bridge, but others remain, hidden in the depths of Ruud Gullit's squad system, among them the 29-year-old former Arsenal and Leeds midfielder, a pounds 1.25m buy from Manchester City in August 1994, who last played for the first team in October last year.

Watch out for...

Aly Dia (Southampton)

At 30 years old, the out-of-contract former Bologna striker - the first- half substitute for Matt Le Tissier on Saturday - may have much of his career behind him, but his arrival at The Dell comes on the personal recommendation of George Weah, a former team-mate at Paris St-Germain. "When someone of Weah's calibre calls, you have to sit up and take notice," Graeme Souness said.

NOISES OFF...

I thought the indirect free-kick had been taken out of football. I thought that it stopped two or three years ago. The obstruction should have brought a penalty or nothing, certainly not a free-kick.

Alex Ferguson, complains about decisions that even favour his own team.

The player accepts he should not have done what he did, so why Mr Keegan can't accept it? I don't know.

Mark Hughes, target of the Newcastle manager's wrath after David Batty's red card at Chelsea.

It was important we scored a goal, not who scored it. Maybe Vialli touched it with the one hair on his head.

Ruud Gullit, on the argument over which Italian scored Chelsea's goal.

I didn't see the ball go in because after I hit the free-kick there were two very tall Newcastle players in front of me.

Gianfranco Zola, unable to offer clarification.

Wimbledon against Inter Milan. That's got a ring to it, hasn't it? We all have our dreams.

Joe Kinnear, with lofty ambitions as Wimbledon stay on course for Europe.

I don't think we deserved that. We can't just hump balls forward, we are a passing side and no one should question our commitment.

Roy Evans, angry after Anfield fans booed Liverpool.

I have no sympathy for Kevin [Poole], because if you are in a match, you are a professional and you should know what you are doing under pressure.

Martin O'Neill on the goalkeeper's decision that led to Andy Hinchcliffe putting Everton ahead at Leicester.

He's a bit of a free spirit but some of the things he does are world class. Occasionally it can worry you when he over-elaborates in tight situations but it is worth it just to see his skill.

Jim Smith on his Croat playmaker Aljosa Asanovic.

Good boys

THE PREMIERSHIP'S

LEADING SCORERS

Ian Wright

(Arsenal)

16

Fabrizio Ravanelli

(Middlesbrough)

15

Premiership 9;

Coca-Cola Cup 6.

Les Ferdinand

(Newcastle)

11

Premiership 7;

Europe 4.

Robbie Fowler

(Liverpool)

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

11

Another Saturday on the West Ham bench, another day lodged on 996 League appearances for 47-year-old Peter Shilton, who wants desperately to reach the milestone of 1,000 games before finally giving way to the passage of time.

Shilton, whose last League match was for Bolton Wanderers on 3 May 1995, made the first of his 125 England appearances 26 years ago today, against East Germany at Wembley.

His team-mates included one current First Division chairman and his ex- manager; a current Third Division manager tempted out of retirement; four others who have been in and out of various hot seats; and the secretary of the Manchester United former players' association, who was winning the last of just four caps.

Shilton apart, only three of Alf Ramsey's side have a direct involvement in professional football today - none, of course, in a playing role.

The line-up: Shilton, Hughes, Cooper, Mullery, Sadler, Moore, Lee, Ball, Hurst, Clarke, Peters.

In the event, the boyish Shilton, who had taken over from Peter Bonetti as understudy to Gordon Banks, had a relatively quiet time behind an England defence resolute even in the face of a Germany side that had scored 16 times in four previous games. England won 3-1, with goals from Francis Lee, Allan Clarke and Martin Peters.

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

1 Chelsea

Vialli adds to the tally against Newcastle

2 Middlesbrough

Seven yellows this month for Robson's men

3 Arsenal

Vieria's third booking in three matches

4 Leeds

Two more cautions at Southampton

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