After a month of stopping and starting, the Premiership season still feels in its infancy but for some managers it may be about to end, or at least suffer an abrupt and painful interruption. The new campaign's first round of sackings, which traditionally occurs in October, is imminent.
You can tell by the careful way in which reporters phrase their questions at post-match Press debriefings. "Would it be fair to say, Stan/Ron/Brian [delete as applicable], that after this result you are beginning to feel under a degree of pressure?" And "Have you spoken to the chairman in the last few days?"
No one actually uses the dreaded S-word but there is never a doubt what it is everyone's mind. This column offers the following forecasts:
That Gerry Francis will endure a month of speculation before Alan Sugar runs out of patience and puts some unhappy Tottenham fans out of their misery in the early part of November.
And that David Pleat will continue to offer the most illuminating analysis of why Sheffield Wednesday keep losing until he is no longer required to do so by the Hillsborough board well before Christmas.
These events will have the knock-on effect of unsettling Wimbledon supporters as Joe Kinnear ponders whether to accept the Spurs job and Leicester fans as Wednesday target Martin O'Neill.
Elsewhere, at Wolverhampton Wanderers, where Sir Jack Hayward has removed son Jonathan from the chairmanship in order to take charge himself, the tenure of Mark McGhee will be terminated within two months unless Wolves happen by then to be top of the First Division.
Readers moved to enquire will almost certainly find that the leading bookmakers concur with these predictions. Watch this space...
Beck's bus trip is the love of Lincoln
The extraordinary John Beck may not be everyone's idea of what the beautiful game needs from its managers - remember his dreadful Cambridge United side - but you cannot fault his commitment to popularising his clubs.
Beck, currently in charge of Lincoln City - or Team Lincoln as he likes the whole operation, from chairman to tea lady, to be known - is taking the game to the people in an innovative way... by allowing supporters to travel on the team coach.
Jerry Lonsdale, the commercial manager, says Beck came up with the idea as a modest way of raising extra revenue for his Third Division side.
"He realised we were travelling with 10 seats empty on every trip," Lonsdale reveals in the October issue of Total Football magazine.
Managers usually prefer to keep their players as far from public scrutiny as possible, especially before a match, but Beck has no qualms about allowing fans to chat with his team. It is a throwback almost to the maximum wage era in which players and supporters, often drawn from the same socio-economic background, would find themselves sharing public transport or even walking together to a game.
Lincoln fans, who pay between pounds 30 and pounds 80 for travel, match tickets and accommodation where necessary, have to sign an agreement guaranteeing their good conduct before they are allowed to travel. So far the scheme has been a total success.
"Everyone has enjoyed it, especially the players," Lonsdale said. "The atmosphere has been very relaxed and friendly."
fact and fiction from the Sunday papers
The Mirror says Crystal Palace would have signed Giuseppe Signori for pounds 5m but pulled out when Lazio's asking price rose to pounds 10m... despite Roy Evans' insistence that Jason McAteer is not for sale, the Express and Mirror report that Aston Villa have joined Newcsatle and Tottenham in the chase for Liverpool's pounds 4m-rated wing back... the People reckons Evans wants to spend pounds 2m on goalkeeper Brad Friedel, currently with MLS side Columbus Crew... the News of the World says Southampton are ready to offer pounds 1m for out-of-favour Leeds man Carlton Palmer and Tottenham are lining up a pounds 2m offer for the striker Bruno Rodriguez, whose goals have sent Metz to the top of the French League... Everton and Bolton are on the trail of the Portuguese striker Pauleta, rated at pounds 3m by Salamanca, according to the Express, while the Mirror says Manchester City will make Uwe Rosler available at pounds 3m... the Mail on Sunday says Gianfranco Zola has pledged himself to Chelsea at least until 2000 and that Andrei Kanchelskis wishes he had never left Manchester United... the People suggests Leicester could allow cult hero Steve Claridge to return to Birmingham in exchange for Paul Devlin.
It will probably come as a huge surprise to readers not familiar with Highbury's inner sanctum to learn that the 28-year-old Dutch winger still has his own peg in the Arsenal dressing-room. Helder has not started a Premiership match for 17 months but, try as they might, Arsenal cannot find anyone to take him off their hands. He spent much of last season on loan to Benfica and, a club insider said, the managing director Ken Friar was "desperate" for the Portuguese club to come up with an offer. None was forthcoming, however, and efforts to drum up interest at home have come to little.
Watch out for...
Danny Cadamarteri (Everton)
Not 18 until next month, Everton's Bradford-born forward has so impressed Howard Kendall with his reserve team form that he was the one to whom the manager turned when Michael Branch limped off injured at Derby on Saturday, leaving fellow substitute Nick Barmby looking somewhat perplexed. The dreadlocked youngster justified Kendall's faith with a lively display in only his second senior appearance.
The way we defended collectively was not very efficient." A hard- to-please Arsene Wenger, rueing the blemish of a Bolton goal against Arsenal's four.
"I normally have a go at them about something but I could not find anything to moan about afterwards, and it pained me greatly." Martin O'Neill lauds Leicester's "brilliant" performance against Tottenham.
"It could all go pear-shaped, of course, but we don't think it will." Mark Hughes on the continuing march of Chelsea.
"Don't talk about a good save, it was a bad finish. He got there and fluffed his chance." Harry Redknapp refuses to spare Paul Kitson after the miss that cost West Ham a 2-0 lead at Old Trafford.
"There is an awe about Ince. People are scared of him, scared of upsetting him." David Pleat reveals the secret of Paul Ince.
"I'm not going to get fined. All I will say is that Bryan Robson and Graeme Souness are good judges." Howard Kendall on referee Michael Riley, whose booking of six Everton players, plus one sending-off, invited the kind of criticism that landed the Middlesbrough and Southampton managers in trouble.
PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK
Eleven English and Scottish clubs for whom the Uefa Cup first round has been the last
Aston Villa (v Helsingborg) 1996-97
Arsenal (v B Monchengladbach) 96-97
Celtic (v Hamburg) 96-97
Man Utd (v Rotor Volgograd) 95-96
Blackburn (v Trelleborg) 94-95
Motherwell (v B Dortmund) 94-95
Hearts (v Atletico Madrid) 93-94
Dundee Utd (v Brondby) 93-94
Man Utd (v Torpedo Moscow) 92-93
Hibernian (v Anderlecht) 92-93
Aberdeen (v B1903 Copenhagen) 91-92
First Division promotion hopefuls Wolves reckon they have at least one striker with a Premiership future in 19-year-old Jason Roberts, signed from non-League Hayes on for pounds 250,000 on Friday.
The teenager certainly has the right pedigree, coming from the club that groomed Les Ferdinand. Not only that, another Hayes old boy, the former West Bromwich, Coventry, Aston Villa and England forward Cyrille Regis is Jason's uncle.
And it was on the advice of Uncle Cyrille - now on West Brom's coaching staff - that Jason plumped for Wolves rather than pursue an alternative offer from Sunderland. "He told me I could learn something from watching and playing with Steve Bull," Jason said.
The Hayes manager, Terry Brown, meanwhile, is predicting that history will repeat itself when Jason, a former export clerk, fulfils his potential. "Jason was our player of the season last year, the same award Cyrille won 20 years ago just before he joined West Brom," Brown said.
"He is a real athlete with a lovely first touch and an eye for goal. We think he could be the third England centre-forward to come from this club."
Benito Carbone (Sheffield Wednesday) Premiership 4; Gianluca Vialli (Chelsea) Premiership 4; John Hartson (West Ham) Premiership 4; Rodney Wallace (Leeds) Premiership 4.
and bad boys
THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS
1 Crystal Palace 19 : 0
Suspension for David Tuttle after caution
2= Arsenal and Coventry 14 : 0
4= Everton, Sheff Wed,
Tottenham and Leeds 12 : 1
Six bookings and a red card for Leeds yesterday.
Rab C Nesbit
Just as well the under-pressure Wolves manager Mark McGhee has a penchant for one-liners. It is a talent that might come in handy should he decide to pursue an alternative career in comedy, where another pudgy- faced Scot has done remarkably well.