That was the weekend that was

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Foreigners who will pay to play for English clubs

It's official - English football is now so fashionable that foreigners are willing to pay to play here.

Grimsby sensation Ivano Bonetti, the Mariners' match-winner for the second Saturday running, says he'll stump up half his pounds 100,000 transfer fee to stay at Blundell Park.

And now Portuguese triallist Antonio Pacheco, told he is not fit enough for the Premiership by Nottingham Forest, is paying his own expenses rather than go home to Lisbon. His hotel bills alone are nearly pounds 600 a week.

''I'm told I'm not fit enough to play the English way but I know I'm good enough for Forest," the 28-year-old former international said. ''I want to know what is the English way and I will stay until I find out, whatever the expense.''

After the Lars Bohinen affair, Forest are wary of entering into unusual arrangements with overseas players - but these are terms with which they are only too happy to comply.

Turn back

the clock

It may have escaped your notice but here we are in the last days of November and not one Premiership manager has been sacked. Have the chairmen all gone soft? By this time last year, five had gone - Ossie Ardiles, Mike Walker and Ron Atkinson shown the door, Gerry Francis and Brian Little tendering their resignations.

William Hill, offering pre-season odds about who would NOT keep his job, had their fingers painfully singed, giving 10-1 Atkinson and 16-1 Ardiles. Had you bet on George Graham not lasting the season you could have had 33-1.

So who were Hills' no-hopers this season, then? At even money, Bolton's Roy McFarland looks to have been a reasonable selection as favourite but 5-4 Gerry Francis is looking a bit silly...although not as puzzling, perhaps, as 5-2 Alan Ball. Considering that Frank Clark and Bryan Robson were only 3-1, that displayed great faith in Francis Lee's patience.

Against all Cup odds

With one round left before the big guns come into view, a dozen non-League sides attempt to survive the second round of the FA Cup next Saturday, compared with eight last season, half of whom made it to round three.

So which minnows, if any, need the giants fear? The Ladbrokes book on who will actually win the Cup reveals some clues.

The interesting one is 3,000-1 Telford United, whose GM Vauxhall Conference form - one win in seven - ought not to worry the Second Division promotion hopefuls Notts County. But then again, 11 League scalps have fallen to the Shropshire shock specialists and, as their captain, Marcus Bignot, says: ''County will be really confident - and that might just work in our favour.''

Red card

ASTON VILLA FANS

Dutch sleeping on the job

On form there can be only one winner when Ireland meet the Netherlands to decide the last qualifier for next summer's Euro 96. Next month's Anfield play-off will be their fourth major showdown in seven years and the Dutch have yet to encounter failure.

But there may be grounds for optimism for Big Jack - apparently the Netherlands' eight-strong Ajax contingent are being worn out by a schedule of high-profile games.

Fatigue is becoming a problem for the European Cup holders, whose internationals have played more than 25 games in the last 12 weeks. ''Some of us are getting very tired,'' midfielder Ronald de Boer admitted. ''The spirit is still high but during a recent photo shoot for a magazine, one of our players fell asleep!''

Tempting fate

Jim Smith, the Derby County manager, eyeing a promotion challenge after Saturday's draw at Crystal Palace

extended the Rams' run to one defeat in 10 games

Vital statistics

the number of days since Hull City, bottom of Division Two, last won in the League

The number of substitutes used this season by Middlesbrough, whose starting line-ups are the least altered in England

the number of League goals West Ham's Tony Cottee has scored against Queen's Park Rangers, his favourite opponents

Take a bow

JIM STANNARD

Training Dutch style: The Ajax players, Kiki Musampa and Edgcar Daniels, go through unusual motions as the European Cup holders prepare for tomorrow's World Club Championship match in Tokyo - the Toyota Cup - against the Brazilian side, Gremio. South American clubs have won the competition 20 times while European clubs have prevailed on 13 occasions.

Rumours

Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Having pulled off the transfer coup of last season when they signed Andy Cole, Manchester United are planning another swoop for a Newcastle star, according to the News of the World. New target, they say, is Belgian defender Philippe Albert, seen as a successor to United captain Steve Bruce. Despite a cult following on Tyneside, Albert has been unable to regain favour with Kevin Keegan after his long-term injury.

The same paper claims Leicester City are bracing themselves for a bitter battle with Wolves over Mark McGhee, on the shortlist to succeed Graham Taylor at Molineux, although this contradicts both the Sunday Mirror and the People, each of which carries the story that out-of-work former Everton boss Howard Kendall has been lined up to take charge until the end of the season...and then give way to Steve Bruce.

The People also predicts a pounds 3m move by Arsenal for Blackburn's Graeme Le Saux, who might feel it is best to move on after his Moscow punch-up with David Batty.

Also in the People, Leeds are supposedly planning to relieve Manchester United of out-of-favour Lee Sharpe, while Sheffield Wednesday are taking a keen interest in Crystal Palace's pounds 4m-rated defender Chris Coleman.

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