THAT WAS THE WEEKEND THAT WAS

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Whitby's fan club celebrate

Middlesbrough's remarkable season might yet include not two but three Wembley dates in their fixture diary.

Apart from the Coca-Cola Cup final on 6 April and a possible return for the FA Cup final on 17 May - provided Chesterfield do not tear up the script - there may well be a party from the Riverside heading for the Twin Towers on 10 May also.

On this occasion, however, the majority would be in the stands rather than on the pitch - adding vocal support, they hope, for Northern League side Whitby in the final of the Carlsberg-sponsored FA Vase.

The one exception - all being well - will be their Football in the Community Officer, Lawrie Pearson. The one-time Hull City stalwart spends his Saturdays proving he can still play a bit as a key member of Whitby's midfield.

While his weekday colleagues were picking up vital Premiership points at Leicester on Saturday, Whitby were moving one step nearer their own Wembley dream with a 1-0 victory away from home in their two-leg Vase semi-final against Banstead, courtesy of Pearson's fourth-minute goal.

"It would be nice to follow Middlesbrough to Wembley," Pearson said, revealing that Danish striker Mikkel Beck has become a staunch Whitby supporter during a season which has also seen them take Hull to an FA Cup replay. "Mikkel has taken a keen interest in the club and been very supportive," he added.

Pearce's twilight zone

Why does Dave Bassett continue to insist that Stuart Pearce is still in charge at Nottingham Forest when the evidence suggests overwhelmingly that this is not the case?

The former Crystal Palace chief - installed as general manager three days after last month's takeover at the City Ground - immediately became Forest's public face, conducting the post-match press conferences player-manager Pearce always declines to attend and handling day-to-day news output at the club.

On the field, the area which ostensibly is Pearce's prime responsibility, a noticeably more direct playing style is developing following Bassett's comments - "just my opinion, you understand" - that Forest were not getting the ball forward quickly enough.

In transfer dealings, meanwhile, Pearce's input appears to have been even more peripheral. It was Bassett who concluded the deal to bring Ian Moore from Tranmere while Irving Scholar, Forest's part-owner and football consultant, reportedly handled the Pierre van Hooijdonk signing from start to finish.

If this seems an unnecessary pretence, it must seem pointedly so to Nigel Clough, whose hopes of a triumphant return to his home club seem to have bitten the dust with Pearce's secret demotion.

Were Pearce really in charge, Clough's three months on loan from Manchester City, where former Forest manager Frank Clark has no apparent use for him, would have concluded with a permanent transfer and the first steps towards following his father into management. Instead it seems sure to end with a rather sad and anonymous departure.

MISTAKEN

IDENTITY

Reader M Weathers, of Isleworth, reckons he turned on Eurotrash on Channel Four on Saturday night and there was Peter Reid, complete with ear-ring and French accent, claiming to be a Parisian fashion designer! So how come Sunderland have such a boring kit?

PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK

Kevin Pressman

SHEFF WED

John Scales

TOTTENHAM

Gareth Southgate

ASTON VILLA

Julian Dicks

WEST HAM

Jason McAteer

LIVERPOOL

Juninho

MIDDLESBROUGH

Emerson

MIDDLESBROUGH

Dennis Wise

CHELSEA

Kevin Gallacher

BLACKBURN

Mark Hughes

CHELSEA

Faustino Asprilla

NEWCASTLE

Take a bow

ROY HODGSON

Manager-in-waiting at Blackburn Rovers, whose decision to confirm the able and likeable Tony Parkes as his No 2 at Ewood Park next season will be applauded throughout a game not noted for rewarding loyalty. Now Parkes can look forward to a pounds 50,000 bonus if Rovers stay up.

Red card

GEOFFREY RICHMOND

The Bradford City chairman, who probably felt justified in protecting his club's interests when he blocked Chris Waddle's move to Nottingham Forest but won little sympathy when it transpired that a pounds 100,000 fee (plus pounds 400,000 more if Forest stay up) had apparently been asked for a 36-year-old they had signed for nothing.

Rumours...

fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Despite their claims to an exclusive, the People's revelation of a pounds 6m move by Newcastle to sign the German sweeper Matthias Sammer this summer finds its way also into the Sunday Express, who put a pounds 7m tag on the Borussia Dortmund man and reckon Kenny Dalglish has an additional pounds 5m earmarked for Liverpool's Jamie Redknapp. This line is endorsed by the News of the World, who believe Atletico Madrid are favourites to take Faustino Asprilla away from St James' Park. The Newcastle manager is also keen on AEK Athens' Georgian midfielder Temur Ketsbaia, according to the People, who throw matters into more confusion by suggesting that Arsenal will sign Redknapp for pounds 6m before the transfer deadline. The Mirror, meanwhile, says Redknapp is an pounds 8m target for Roma. Also bound for Italy, according to the Mail on Sunday, is Aston Villa's unsettled Serb, Savo Milosevic, supposedly lined up for a pounds 4m move to Napoli, cash that would pave the way, the Mail says, for Brian Little to sign Stan Collymore. However, the News of the World says Wolves have jumped to the head of the queue for the Liverpool striker, while the Mirror claims that Villa have pounds 5m earmarked for Leicester's Emile Heskey.

Missing person

Ian Pearce (Blackburn)

The 6ft 3in England Under-21 defender does not care to be reminded of 5 November 1995. Having smashed his nose at Everton, it was suggested he should have an X-ray on a troublesome ankle too. The pictures revealed a small but vital bone broken and only now, 16 months later, is a comeback in sight.

Watch out for...

David Hughes (Aston Villa)

The tall Wrexham-born defender turned 19 only last month but already has a Welsh Under-21 cap and, after making his senior Villa debut against Liverpool's Robbie Fowler and Stan Collymore two weeks ago, displayed composure beyond his years against West Ham on Saturday.

Good boys

THE PREMIERSHIP'S

LEADING SCORERS

Robbie Fowler

(Liverpool)

Premiership 16; FA Cup 1

Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 4.

Fabrizio Ravanelli

(Middlesbrough)

Premiership 13; FA Cup 4

Coca-Cola Cup 8.

Ian Wright

(Arsenal)

Premiership 18;

Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 2.

Alan Shearer

(Newcastle)

Premiership 20; FA Cup 1

Coca-Cola Cup 1; Europe 1.

Kenny Dalglish may not have been the happiest man at Anfield a week ago tonight but if he is asked, in future, to recall Newcastle's visits to Liverpool it will not be last Monday's 4-3 defeat for his new charges that comes to mind.

Indeed, no seven-goal classic will ever displace in his affections a game between the sides that produced only two goals.

This was on 23 August 1977, a Tuesday evening and the occasion of Dalglish's home debut for Liverpool following his pounds 440,000 transfer from Celtic. The 26-year-old Scot, already capped 47 times by his country, was hardly a raw youngster - but upon him was the burden of succeeding Kevin Keegan as King of the Kop and even he was moved by his reception.

Watched by 48,000 fans, Dalglish illuminated the occasion in the way he knew best - by scoring a memorable goal at the start of the second half. Ray Kennedy, picking up a move started by Ian Callaghan, lofted a pass into Dalglish's path. Outpacing his marker, Dalglish bore down on goalkeeper Steve Hardwick with only one thought - and with the Kop willing him to produce the crowning moment.

It was a prospect to unnerve even the most seasoned professsional but Dalglish did not disappoint his new admirers, waiting just long enough for Hardwick to advance from his line before lifting the ball into the net. Later he set up a second Liverpool goal for the man who is now his managerial No 2, Terry McDermott.

THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS

1 Leeds

Five cautions in 10 League matches for Dutch defender Robert Molenaar

2 Arsenal

Eight bookings in 24 games for Patrick Vieira

3 Middlesbrough

Neil Cox keeps Boro among bad-boys front-runners

4 Chelsea

Dennis Wise and Mark Hughes booked yesterday

NOISES OFF...

In the end I started looking at my watch hoping the referee would blow his whistle. I just wanted to get on the bus and go home."

David Pleat, ever the realist, after watching Sheffield Wednesday taken apart by Manchester United.

"It was an important win and I was delighted with some of our football. Now we can think of Porto."

Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United manager .

"It was a display of petulance, and he will be fined - that's all I am prepared to say on the matter."

George Graham, after Leeds striker Tony Yeboah joined the shirt-throwing trend at Tottenham.

"I flung my arm out and caught him across the side of the face and he reacted. I probably would have reacted the same way if someone caught me like that. But we shook hands and there is no problem."

Matt Le Tissier, defending Patrick Vieira after the Arsenal man's act of retaliation at The Dell.

"To be a professional is to act in the interest of the game and to punch someone is not in the interest of the team."

Arsene Wenger, not so willing to let his player off lightly.

"We've got more or less three games a week from up until the end but it is no good feeling sorry for ourselves. It is a test of strength now and we have got to dig in."

Joe Kinnear, calling for a full measure of Wimbledon spirit from his weary players.

"Juninho gave me plenty of food for thought. I put Grayson closer to him in the second half. Before that I'd been nearer to him than some of my players."

Martin O'Neill, wondering how Leicester will deal with Brazilian flair at Wembley next month.

"I'm sniffing relegation now and I don't like it. I've told the players that if they continue like this then it will happen."

Gordon Strachan, starting to fret about Coventry's plight.

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