That was the weekend that was

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Fifa fatheads stretch patience

of managers and supporters

Surely, if there is a case for a stretcher and medical attention it has to be those administrative brains that came up with the ruling that before an injured player receives treatment he first has to leave the pitch, preferably on a stretcher.

The idea, introduced by Fifa after the 1994 World Cup, was ignored by the English game last season which argued, correctly, that the issue of players' feigning injury had never been a problem.

Now, following pressure from the other nations, Fifa has forced the Premier and Endsleigh Leagues to fall into line. It is not being well received.

At the weekend the Arsenal manager, Bruce Rioch, ordered his players to walk off the field if they required attention, only using the stretcher if they were seriously hurt. Other managers agree that far from speeding up the game, it actually slows it down while the stretchers arrive at the scene.

Rioch also makes the valid point that when a visiting player is carried off and immediately returns to the game, the home fans jeer and animosity is created unnecessarily. Supporters are confused, especially those at Coventry on Saturday, who are convinced the Arsenal full-back Lee Dixon received treatment on the pitch before going off, contrary to the rules.

Turn back

the clock

No doubt cynics among the Tranmere supporters greeted the 3-1 home win over Huddersfield and the climb to the First Division leadership with a resigned shrug of the shoulders and the cry "Here we go again".

In recent seasons John King's side has promised so much and then failed to deliver when it mattered most. Last season they reached top spot in February before sliding to fifth and inevitable defeat in the play-off semi-final.

In 1993-4 they headed the League on 25 September, regained it in December but a home defeat on the last day meant they once again finished fifth en route to a play-off defeat.

Flying in the face of facts

Harry Redknapp, the West Ham manager, has a way with players that is designed to get the best from them. Well, maybe not Iain Dowie, the Crystal Palace striker the East End club are hoping to sign for a second time this week.

Redknapp was full of the striker's virtues after Saturday's game at Nottingham Forest. "He gets in where it hurts and is good in the air. We are getting some useful wingers in the squad but if we are going to sling the ball across we need someone in the middle to get on the end of it," Redknapp said.

That drew the question: "Has Dowie scored many goals in the air then Harry?"

It took Redknapp slightly aback at first before he replied: "Yeah, I would think looking at the shape of his face, he must have headed a lot of goals!"

Red card


Boro's meals on wheels

Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough players, who had expected to have their pre-match lunch at the Cellnet Riverside Stadium, had to be ferried to a nearby hotel after an electricity generator failed at the ground shortly before it was due to stage its first game.

The poor loves: it was only nine years ago that Boro's squad had to change in their cars and train on wasteland in preparation for the first home game of the season.

Then, watched by a crowd of 3,690, the 2-2 draw with Port Vale was staged amid the cinder banks and corrugated iron of Hartlepool after the receivers had moved in and padlocked the gates at Ayresome Park.

At least this time the faithful 28,286 left happier after Boro's first Premiership victory sent the flashy Londoners of Chelsea packing.

Excuses, excuses

"I have only got a certain amount of money to spend and I would like two players from that, but basically all I have got is the pounds 5.2m from the sale of Nick Barmby and that doesn't go far these days"

Gerry Francis, the manager of Tottenham, after Spurs' second

successive home defeat, 3-1 to Liverpool

Vital statistics

The number of sendings off in England and Scotland, with six in England and five north of the border

The number of seconds it took Eddie Youds to score the fastest goal of the weekend for Bradford at home to Shewsbury


The lowest League attendance in England or Scotland - at Stenhousemuir v Stranraer

Take a bow



Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Desperate to get their season going, Manchester City are interested in signing Ruel Fox who has struggled for a first-team place at Newcastle since Keith Gillespie arrived, according to the People. However, City apparently don't think much of the pounds 2m asking price.

The same paper also suggests both Manchester United and Everton are interested in signing Lazio's Dutch midfielder Aron Winter, who would cost about pounds 4.5m. Spurs are said to be interested in the Danish defender Jakob Laurens, while Arsenal are keeping tabs on Lee Bowyer, the Charlton midfielder.

Bryan Robson wants to take Arsenal's Dutch winger Glenn Helder to Middlesbrough, according to the Sunday Express, which also suggests that Ron Atkinson wants to have Crystal Palace's pounds 1.5m-rated defender Richard Shaw in Coventry's back line.

The same paper also reports that Ray Wilkins wants to take an experienced goalkeeper to Queen's Park Rangers. He is supposed to be interested in luring Chris Woods from Sheffield Wednesday, or, failing that, may go for Chelsea's reserve Kevin Hitchcock.