After a week in which the football grapevine suggested that half of Serie A was heading for the Premiership, the news that there is a player in Europe who does not want to come to England is something of a revelation.
Sean Dundee, a 23-year-old striker with Karlsruhe, has been pursued over the past few months by a host of Premiership clubs, among them Manchester United and Everton, the latter having somehow discovered that Dundee, born in South Africa, supported them as a child.
He has even had Mick McCarthy on his trail, the Republic of Ireland manager having been informed by his researchers, who seem to have access to the family tree of every footballer in the world, that Dundee has Irish grandparents.
McCarthy can forget it now, Irish ancestry or not, Dundee is now officially German. Four years a resident, Dundee - predictably nicknamed "Crocodile" by his Karlsruhe team-mates - has been granted a German passport, having satisfied the fast-track citizenship rules that apply to sports people. Berti Vogts is already considering calling him up to the national team.
n Alex Ferguson may think Manchester United are the team everyone wants to beat, but there are three Premiership clubs that may rather wish they had not beaten United - the only three to have done so this season.
Southampton's 6-3 victory at The Dell, precipitated a run of six matches without a win. Chelsea, triumphant at Old Trafford, failed to win any of their next five. More uncannily still, Newcastle have not won in seven games since thrashing United 5-0.
Did the effort of putting one over United leave all their energy spent? Or have the champions discovered some mysterious means of inflicting revenge?
Arsenal play right card
It is at this time of year that the PR-conscious among football clubs - and they do not yet, regrettably, form a majority - become easy to spot. They are the ones who declare a truce in hostilities and bombard their "friends" in the media with jolly Christmas cards.
Even Arsenal, who probably feel that they have every reason to distance themselves from the press, have sent the Royal Mail van away groaning under the weight of seasonal greetings.
It's the thought that counts, and Arsenal have certainly put some thought into their offering. The half-a-dozen carol singers depicted on the Highbury steps, sporting Arsenal accessories with the Nike label prominent, are not a random gathering. Close examination of the drawing reveals that the group includes male and female, black, white and Asian supporters.
Such political correctness, of course, has not always come naturally to Arsenal's ideas men. They came up with the wheeze of hiding building work behind a giant painted crowd scene covered with a sea of white, male faces, prompting a predictable outcry. Clearly, they did not wish to risk such a reaction again.
The spirit of goodwill did not deter Chelsea from having a sly dig at Julian Dicks on his return to Stamford Bridge, where he has been thought of with something less than warmth since he left a boot print on John Spencer's head. "Julian Dicks," Saturday's programme noted, "a player who always seems to stamp his character on encounters between our sides."
Having worked so hard to perfect that beleaguered look, now would seem the ideal opportunity for the former Nottingham Forest manager to don his white apron, polish up his French accent and revive the role of Rene, the harassed cafe patron. As someone was saying to Phil Neal only the other day: "'Allo 'Allo, Frank Clark's resigned. You can bet he won't be out of a job for long!"
Take a bow
For not only having the courage to throw caution to the wind with his 3-5-2 formation against Arsenal, but then having the decency to dedicate his relegation-threatened team's success to his predecessor, Frank Clark.
For sticking up two metaphorical fingers both to the media and the Premier League with his disappearing act after the 5-0 thrashing of Sunderland, in defiance of a reminder of his duties issued only last week.
Andy Pearce (Wimbledon)
Just over a year after he was squeezed out at Sheffield Wednesday, the 30-year-old centre-back finds himself similarly marginalised at Selhurst Park. Joe Kinnear paid pounds 700,000 for the 6ft 4in stopper, who looked to be a classic Wimbledon type. But after making only eight appearances last season, Pearce has tumbled still further down the pecking order and looks ripe for another move.
Watch out for...
James Scowcroft (Ipswich)
A product of Ipswich's youth programme, the 6ft 1in England Under-21 striker is rapidly making a name for himself in his first full season at Portman Road. Stepping into the place vacated by Ian Marshall's move to Leicester, Scowcroft has clocked up seven goals.
fact and fiction from the Sunday papers
Boasting that they were the paper in the know before Frank Clark's resignation at Nottingham Forest, the Mail on Sunday claims that Clark is pondering an invitation to take over at Manchester City, who have abandoned their interest in Howard Wilkinson and put up a pounds 10m transfer kitty for Clark, from whom they want a decision before the new year. The People report that Brian Kidd, No 2 at Manchester United, has turned City down. Both the People and News of the World claim to have heard "exclusively" that Sven Goran Eriksson, Blackburn's manager-in-waiting, wants Arsenal's David Platt as his assistant. The People also reckon that Oliver Bierhoff, who turned Blackburn down because he feared that they would be relegated, is now looking at a possible move in a rather different light. According to the News of the World, Newcastle and Liverpool are chasing the 17-year- old Icelandic striker Bjarni Gudjunsson, already rated at pounds 1.5m.
Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 2.
Coca-Cola Cup 5; Europe 3.
Coca-Cola Cup 7.
Coca-Cola Cup 1; Europe 1.
The players may hate them, but for fans the Boxing Day match is a cherished tradition.
Some have been so special as to pass into football folklore, none more so than the match at Hillsborough on 26 December 1979, an occasion never to be forgotten by supporters of either of Sheffield's football persuasions, Wednesday or United.
They were gathering for a derby with an extra edge, the first League meeting of the sides for almost a decade. But it was the circumstances that set the match apart. Wednesday, managed since 1977 by Jack Charlton, were slumming it in the old Third Division, where they had been joined by United, in the bottom half of the League for the first time in their history.
Seldom had the fixture been anticipated so eagerly. Hillsborough, used to crowds of around 13,000 for Grimsby, Brentford, Hull and the like, had 49,303 on the premises, a Third Division record never likely to be surpassed.
United were an unremarkable side (apart from Alex Sabella) but had been top of the division since October. They fancied themselves to beat their rivals, who were meandering along in eighth place.
What happened on the pitch, however, was as extraordinary as the occasion. Charlton's team, built around his pounds 100,000 record signing Terry Curran, once of Nottingham Forest, romped home 4-0, with Curran among the scorers.
The encounter, still recalled vividly even now, proved a turning point in both clubs' seasons, giving Wednesday the springboard to promotion and sending United's fortunes into such a decline they eventually finished 12th.
THE SEASON'S RED AND YELLOW CARDS
Three bookings put Chelsea back on top in the sinners' stakes.
Three more cautions against Everton.
No game and so no punishments for Bryan Robson's team.
Ian Wright collects Arsenal's second red card of the season.
PREMIERSHIP TEAM OF THE WEEK
Alf Inge Haland
It is not unknown for teams to call games off and this is a genuine case. If it comes to an inquiry we will tell the truth.
Steve Gibson, the Middlesbrough chairman, under fire for pulling out of Saturday's match at Blackburn.
When you come to places like Tottenham, Liverpool and Manchester United, you sometimes have to fear the tradition of those places. But we had nothing to defend against today except the long throw of Allan Nielsen and the clearances of their goalkeeper.
David Pleat, the former Tottenham manager, delivering his verdict on the Spurs of today.
Allan [Nielsen] is a big plus for me at the moment. He's been outstanding and is revelling in the English style of play.
Gerry Francis, the current Tottenham manager, a few moments later.
If we hadn't won today, I had the tickets ready so that I could go back to Parma!
Gianfranco Zola, an Italian in London with a sense of humour.
I felt we had a lot of the ball but there is no point in having a lot of the ball if every time they get the ball they look like scoring.
Harry Redknapp, under pressure as West Ham drift downwards.
I think this victory was down to Frank Clark and the work he has done over the last few weeks and I wish he was here to share it with us.
Stuart Pearce, generously awarding credit to his predecessor after Nottingham Forest's defeat of Arsenal.
Ian is always a bit niggly. He gets psyched up for every game, but this was unprofessional.
Alan Hill, the Forest No 2, on the assault on Nicola Jerkan that got Ian Wright a red card.Reuse content