That was the weekend that was

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Six of the worst encourage

Fry's gambling instinct

To name three or not to name three? That is the question taxing managerial minds this season now they are permitted to use three outfield players as substitutes, instead of two outfield men plus a goalkeeper.

Ray Harford decided not to gamble on Saturday and it paid off for the Blackburn manager when his goalkeeper, Tim Flowers, was sent off with 18 minutes remaining against Queen's Park Rangers. Bobby Mimms' introduction and his ability to defend a 1-0 lead showed that he had been right to be cautious.

Birmingham's Barry Fry comes from a different managerial stock; one in which the gambler's instinct is always prominent. For the second week running he left out a second keeper, and after the 3-1 defeat at Charlton was only wishing he had been able to make even more changes.

"If I'd been allowed six subs I would have taken six off at half-time," Fry said, before explaining the three substitutions he did make during the interval: "I've never seen Frain roasted so much, Ward was awful and Claridge was hopeless - he kept falling over."

Not that the replacements fared much better. The half-time score at The Valley was 0-0. Twenty-four minutes after Fry's surgery Birmingham were 2-0 down and heading for defeat.

Interestingly, five Premiership sides chose to do without a substitute goalkeeper at the weekend: Manchester United, Newcastle, Leeds, Queen's Park Rangers and Wimbledon.

Gazza costs far too much

Paul Gascoigne has established another first in a career that is often inspirational, occasionally successful and always controversial. He has become the first player to demand payment for contributing to an England match programme.

A couple of seasons back Gazza complained that he was never featured in the match-day columns. For the Wembley game with Croatia on 6 September - now postponed - the programme producers decided to put his enthusiasm to the test.

However, a telephone call to Len Lazarus, the agent for the Rangers' midfielder, drew the response: "How much is it worth?" Happily the request was given short shrift.

"It's the first time I've known an England player ask for money," the freelance journalist, Kevin Palmer, said. He was delighted to find David Platt a more than reasonable substitute. And he came for free.

Turn back

the clock

Manchester United fans wishing to ease the pain of Saturday's events might like to recall another opening-day fixture against Aston Villa. United beat Villa 4-0 at Old Trafford on 17 August 1985, with second-half goals by Olsen (two), Hughes and Whiteside. United won their first 10 games, but with just 12 victories in the next 32 Ron Atkinson's team could finish only fourth. United lost their first game three years ago (1-2 at Sheffield United), but went on to win the title for the first time in 26 years. However, none of this weekend's Premiership losers will want to be reminded that the four clubs relegated last season all lost their first games.

Red card

Manchester United

Excuses, excuses

We are used to playing teams who play football, knocking the ball around like we do, not the game Huddersfield played

Vital statistics

38

The number of away matches in succession which Leyton Orient have failed to win. The O's took their sequence into a third season with Saturday's 0-0 draw at Mansfield.

315

The number of League goals (in 572 appearances) that John Aldridge has scored in his career, the latest two coming in Tranmere's 2-0 win at Sheffield United on Saturday.

64

The number of seconds it took Stephen Finney to score the weekend's fastest goal, for Swindon at home to York

1,946

The lowest League attendance of the weekend - Fulham's 2-2 draw at

Scarborough

Glenn Roeder, the manager of Watford, attempting to explain his team's miserable performance away to Huddersfield, who won 1-0

PREMIER XI

TEAM OF THE WEEKEND

MILLER

MIDDLESBROUGH

PERRY

WIMBLEDON

MABBUTT

TOTTENHAM

HENDRY

BLACKBURN

GULLIT

CHELSEA

DRAPER

A VILLA

REDKNAPP

LIVERPOOL

KINKLADZE

MAN CITY

YEBOAH

LEEDS

ROY

NOTTM FOREST

No stopping hot-shot Dixon

Kerry Dixon might have turned 34 last month but at a time when he ought reasonably to be totting up his pension he is still counting goals. Ask him to total his haul from all five League clubs and the answer comes back quicker than an Inland Revenue payment demand.

Dixon was on hand at the weekend to score the goal that gave Millwall victory at Port Vale. The former Chelsea and Luton striker has enough quality forwards to keep him company at the New Den. Chris Malkin, Uwe Fuchs and Richard Cadette are vying with him for the two places available, but Dixon has never been one to duck a fight.

He said: "I've now scored five in 11 games and a goal every other game is as good as I managed in my prime. I feel fit, and with John Aldridge still banging them in at 37 there's no need for me to think about retiring just yet."

Take a bow

Ipswich Town

Wishing he was somewhere else ... Eric Cantona, confined to the stand at Villa Park, can only reflect on what might have been had he been out on the pitch on Saturday

Any fears that Mattie Holmes might be embarrassed about his sponsored car following his transfer to Blackburn were dispelled by Steve Potts, his former captain at West Ham. "He'll park that Lada alongside the flashier motors in the Blackburn players' car park without batting an eyelid," Potts wrote in West Ham's programme on Saturday.

Rumours

Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

With no sign of a truce in the war of wills between Manchester United and their errant Ukrainian winger, Andrei Kanchelskis, the News of the World reports that Manchester United are about to launch a bid to buy back the Northern Ireland forward, Keith Gillespie, from Newcastle. Gillespie joined the Magpies when Andy Cole went to Old Trafford last season.

The People also runs the same story, and suggests that Kanchelskis may even go to Newcastle in exchange for Gillespie. The Mail on Sunday has another possible destination for Kanchelskis: Tottenham, with Darren Anderton heading the other way.

The People also claims that West Ham want to offload their summer signing from Sparta Rotterdam, Marco Boogers, less than two months after signing him. The pounds 800,000 striker has found it difficult to settle in England. The same paper suggests that the Hammers are planning a pounds 1.5m joint bid for the Bristol Rovers pair, Marcus Stewart and Gareth Taylor.

The Sunday Express reports that Queen's Park Rangers are after Luton's United States international goalkeeper, Jurgen Sommer, and that Millwall are pursuing the Luton defender David Greene and Swindon's Adrian Viveash.

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