That was the weekend that was

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Fans give Canaries' cash rescue mission the bird

SATURDAY'S CUP victory for Coventry at Carrow Road was the second setback in a week for Bruce Rioch's attempts to revive Norwich City. The pounds 3m transfer of Darren Eadie to Leicester, however, is likely to be much more significant, drawing attention to an embarrassing off-the-field setback that could force the former Arsenal manager to sell off more major assets.

Norwich, burdened by debts running to pounds 7m, thought they could ease their plight with a share issue and drew up a scheme with the potential to raise pounds 30m.

Realistically - or so they thought - it was more likely to yield around pounds 3m. But this would still provide a substantial improvement in the club's finances, creating pounds 2m to trim the overdraft and pounds 1m for Rioch to spend on new players.

However, by the deadline for applications from existing shareholders - the first to be offered the new shares - the take-up amounted to a pitiful pounds 30,000.

"We do have to bridge our financial gap," chairman Bob Cooper said. "We wanted to do that through the rights issue and we haven't been able to.

"I'm not worried in the sense that it was all or nothing but this was an opportunity and now we will have to look elsewhere."

Now shares will be offered to members of the public but given that, with some notable exceptions, football shares have hardly proved a good investment, hopes of a supporter-generated windfall are not high.

And that could mean Norwich reverting to the "selling club" image they hoped they had left behind, with star assets Craig Bellamy and Darel Russell likely to be first to follow Eadie out of Carrow Road.

Platt handed a reprieve by Forest management

DESPITE HIS team's rapid descent towards relegation, David Platt's Christmas present from Nottingham Forest will not be a P45.

Forest survived an FA Cup ordeal on Friday when Second Division Oxford ran them close at the City Ground, but Platt has since emerged unscathed from a bigger test after chairman Eric Barnes and chief investor Neale Doughty delivered their mid-term report on his progress.

Platt has managed only six wins from his first 27 matches since succeeding Ron Atkinson as Forest boss and his side's failure to see off Oxford before a crowd of just 8,000 only heightened speculation the former England captain would become the third Forest manager to be dismissed in six years since Brian Clough's retirement.

Forest face Fulham and Crewe at home and a replay at the Manor Ground before travelling to Blackburn on Boxing Day. Bad results could leave Forest in the bottom three of Division One and deny them a trip to Chelsea in round four of the Cup.

But Barnes insists Platt remains a "great prospect." He said: "It took Brian Clough two and a half years to turn the club around, so we have to give David the chance,"

RUMOURS

WHILE THE Sunday Mirror reckons Tottenham' are homing in on Blackburn's Ashley Ward, The People reports George Graham has raised his offer for Sunderland's Kevin Phillips from pounds 7m to pounds 9m. But Sunderland manager Peter Reid - reported by the Sunday Mirror to have turned down pounds 3m to become Blackburn boss - is more concerned about goalkeepers, according to The News Of The World. They say he will lose Thomas Sorensen to Lazio and wants Stockport's Carlo Nash.

The Sunday Mirror says Middlesbrough are ready to launch a pounds 6m move for Newcastle's Duncan Ferguson, even though The News Of The World reports Newcastle manager Bobby Robson has told Ferguson he must start to justify his wages.

Arsenal's defensive crisis could lead to a bid for Charlton centre back Richard Rufus according to the Sunday Mirror. The People says Arsene Wenger is looking at two Frenchmen, Lens' Ernest Escombe and Marseille's William Gallas. The Sunday Mirror, meanwhile, says Nicolas Anelka is so unhappy at Real Madrid he would jump at the chance of going back to Highbury.

The Sunday Express says Tottenham's Ruel Fox may return to Norwich. The People says Liverpool ar looking at AEK Athens defender Mihalis Kassapis, even he is serving a 24-match ban for hitting a referee.

CARD CHECK

REPORTS THAT Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore wants a return to "common sense" refereeing will have gone down well with Premiership managers, who will have noticed a sharp contrast in the number of cards shown during the third-round FA Cup programme. Saturday's programme produced an average of 2.5 cards per match compared with the four or five common in top-flight matches. The busiest referees were all Premiership men: Paul Alcock with six yellow cards in the Norwich-Coventry clash. Mike Riley, Steve Bennett, Neale Barry and Paul Durkin with four, Barry adding a red when he dismissed Portsmouth's Michael Panopoulos at the Stadium Of Light. Mike Reed recorded only one yellow card in Sheffield Wednesday's tie against Bristol City, but still made the headlines, showing Wednesday substitute Alan Quinn a red card in the last minute after the 20-year-old Irishman, making his home debut, had been on the field less than two minutes.

NET MINDER

ILLUSTRATING HOW the internet removes national barriers is a world wide web campaign to have Roberto Baggio recalled to the Italian national team for Euro 2000. Vince Micieli, a Canadian-Italian based in Hamilton, Ontario, invites visitors to his Roberto Baggio Web-site to add their e-signatures to a petition aimed at coach Dino Zoff. The cause would be helped, it has to be said, if Baggio could first make Internazionale's line-up.

www.worldchat.com/public/vincem/playbaggioe.htm.

Forgotten man... Face of the future

Phil Babb

Liverpool

AFTER FIVE years at Anfield, a change of scenery must surely be imminent for the 29-year-old Republic of Ireland defender, signed for pounds 3.6 million from Coventry City in September 1994. After initially surviving last season's managerial upheaval, Babb has failed this season to make one first-team appearance and manager Gerard Houllier has indicated no likely recall. In the last year of his contract, he has been linked among others with Racing Santander of Spain and Queen's Park Rangers.

Darel Russell

Norwich City

NORWICH'S REPUTATION for bringing along talented youngsters is enhanced by the emergence of 19-year-old Russell, whose performances in midfield have already made him a valuable asset. The London-born player, a product of the club's youth programmes, earned his senior debut at the end of the 1997-98 season and has made rapid progress. Blessed with an eye for goal, he popped up with the winner against West Bromwich Albion last week to maintain his side's Division One revival.

FA Cup Team Of The Weekend

STEVE LIVINGSTONE

Grimsby

EIRIK BAKKE

Leeds

DEAN WEST

Burnley

GUSTAVO POYET

Chelsea

DARREN FERGUSON

Wrexham

GARY ROWETT

Birmingham

JASON MATTHEWS

Exeter

BRIAN CAREY

Wrexham

PAUL PARRY

Hereford

TITI CAMARA

Liverpool

STEVE FROGGATT

Coventry

Manager of the week: Brian Flynn - the diminutive Wrexham manager becomes the undisputed king of the giant-killers.

Performance of the week: Hereford - a Cup display in the great tradition of gallant underdogs.

KEY NUMBERS

1

The only link between the Chelsea side and the one that beat Hull City in the 1992 F A Cup is Dennis Wise

6

The number of lower division sides to have knocked West Ham out of the FA Cup since 1993. Tranmere join Barnsley (1993), Luton (1994), Grimsby (1996), Wrexham (1997) and Swansea (1999)

100

Gianluca Vialli completed a century of games as Chelsea manager with Saturday's win at Hull

WHINGE OF THE WEEK

"We were so slack it was as if we wanted them to get back in the game. We encouraged them to come at us and they accepted the invitation."

- Middlesbrough boss Bryan Robson, at a loss to explain his side's Cup demise at Wrexham

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