That was the weekend that was

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Life begins at 40 for a scallywag

The spirit of Michael Knighton evidently lives on. Paul Scally, the Gillingham chairman, however, aims to go one better than the one-time ball-juggling director of Manchester United and now chairman of Carlisle. Scally aims to actually play for his club, as a substitute in the final game of the season against Scarborough on 4 May.

His debut at the age of 40 is dependent upon the Gills having already ensured themselves of promotion from the Third Division. At the moment they are second to Preston and five points clear of fourth-placed Darlington. Scally, who last year saved the Kent club from bankruptcy when he stepped in at the 11th hour, has registered himself as a player for the purpose of winning a bet.

By playing he would establish a record as the oldest player to start a League career and would collect pounds 10,000 in winnings by doing so - enough to fund an end-of-season tour.

"I am doing this for a better reason than just publicity," said Scally. "If it happens it will be a bit of a laugh for players and fans at the end of a great season. I played in a veterans' match recently and nobody was impressed, but I blame the service I was getting."

Tony Pulis, the manager, has not yet revealed what role he has in mind for his chairman.

Fry: a one-man market place

It may have been a quiet transfer deadline day at the top of the market but, naturally, there was no stopping Barry Fry. After another burst of frenzied dealing, Thursday arrived with three more new names on Birmingham City contracts after pounds 1.1m worth of business brought John Cornforth (Swansea), Martin Grainger (Brentford) and Paul Peschisolido (Stoke) to St Andrew's.

Peschisolido, the diminutive striker otherwise recognised as "Mr" Karren Brady, put pen to paper two minutes before the deadline, returning to the club where his other half is managing director only 19 months after Fry sold him.

The Canadian international became the 28th Fry signing of the season, against an outgoing log of 29. To those who mock such figures, the cheeky chappy with the cheque book might point out that income (pounds 4.5m) has exceeded expenditure by pounds 550,000.

Not everyone approves. One letter in Saturday's Sports Argus, the Birmingham sports paper, accused Fry of "destroying any semblance of order, ripping the heart out of the team and hoping the replacement squad would gel together in an instant." The writer will not have been impressed, then, to read the Blues news page in the same edition... informing readers that Fry, concerned at having counted 37 professionals on his books, is "planning a summer shake-up".



`A couple more wins should see us safe. And then another big club may have to bite the dust' - Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear, in bullish mood after defeating Forest.

`I was touched by the crowd. It shows the vast majority of people are fair-minded. Sadly, the vociferous minority tend to get heard most' - Leeds chief Howard Wilkinson hearing only what he wants to hear.

`We were crap in the second half and panicked. We may as well not turn up against United next week if we do that' - Alan Ball, preparing for the worst before the Manchester derby.

`The mood is exactly how you would expect it to be with players who don't want to get beat and don't want to go down' - Ron Atkinson, trying to convince us all of Coventry's defiance.

`It is Coventry's fault they didn't take the chances they had. I can't say we felt lucky to be only a goal down because their keeper made some excellent saves' - Tottenham boss Gerry Francis.

`We were second best all round and if you are second best you're going nowhere' - Southampton's Dave Merrington, heading for the First Division, perhaps.

`We're not just thinking about the play-offs, we definitely think Derby can be caught and when we play them in a couple of weeks time it will be a massive game' - Charlton's Alan Curbishley, looking to the Premiership.


Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

After the rush of foreign talent to these shores, there may be movement in the other direction this summer, according to one of the weekend's more popular gossip lines - predicting a possible move to Germany for Aston Villa's Mark Draper.

A News of the World exclusive claimed the 25-year-old midfielder has been lined up as a pounds 5m target for Bayern Munich after Jurgen Klinsmann likened him to "a young Lothar Matthaus". The People and Sunday Mirror got wind of that story, too, The People suggesting that the Coca-Cola Cup winners will need to raise Draper's salary to pounds 20,000 a week to keep him.

Elsewhere in the News of the World, Manchester United and Milan are supposedly locking horns in a battle to land Ajax's 22-year-old midfielder, Edgar Davids, who will be a free agent in the summer.

Meanwhile, the process of appointing a new England coach has moved on a stage, according to The People, who claimed that the FA have officially approached Newcastle with a request to talk to Kevin Keegan but have been turned down. The story reported an insistence by Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough that they have not been contacted.

Turn back

the clock

Sunderland's advance towards a possible First Division title in the Endsleigh League has stirred memories of 20 years ago on Wearside, recalling the side that Bob Stokoe guided to the 1975-76 Second Division championship.

It was a line-up that included Jim Montgomery, Bobby Kerr, Vic Halom, Ian Porterfield, Billy Hughes and Bryan "Pop" Robson, many of whom had picked up FA Cup medals three years earlier when Leeds came a cropper at Wembley.

Sadly, the title did not herald a glorious era in the top flight. By October of the following season, having failed to win one game in the First Division, Stokoe had resigned. The next season, Sunderland were back in the Second Division.

Then, as now, Manchester United were chasing a League and Cup double...only for it all to go sadly wrong. In the League, they fell one fence from home, losing at home to Stoke.

In the Cup, Tommy Docherty declared that their semi-final against Derby County would be "the final in the eyes of most people", dismissing the other semi-final, between Southampton and Crystal Palace as "a bit of a joke". At Wembley, of course, Southampton made him pay for his arrogance...


reasons why...

Wimbledon should be allowed to move to Dublin

1 Because it's not fair that we should have Vinnie Jones all to ourselves

2 The one man and his dog at Selhurst Park could find something better to do on a Saturday afternoon

3 Crystal Palace would no longer be upstaged by their tenants

4 The pitch might resemble a football field rather than a poor excuse for one

5 Ex-Don Dave Bassett would have less reason to hanker after the good old days

6 Some of Wimbledon's long ball football used to reach that far, anyway

7 Owner Sam Hammam could introduce the Irish to the delicacy of sheep's eyes

8 They probably taste better washed down with a glass of Guinness

9 Dubliner Joe Kinnear would be able to see more of his family

10 Wimbledon might have a better chance of hanging on to their players

n Managers are sacked, chairmen resign, players are put on the transfer list - but groundsmen go one forever, don't they? Not so. Tomorrow, for the first time in 23 years, Ipswich will not be playing on a pitch prepared by Winston Chapman when Derby visit Portman Road. The Suffolk club and their 55-year-old turf curator have parted, as the saying goes, "by mutual consent".

Red card


Take a bow


Missing person

ANDY PEARCE (Wimbledon)

By necessity, Wimbledon manager Joe Kinnear has had to pick his purchases carefully, which is why it is a surprise to find centre-back Pearce (right) struggling to win a first-team place. The 29-year-old former Coventry player, signed for pounds 500,000 from Sheffield Wednesday, has made only four starts in 26 matches since his November move, three of those within a fortnight of his arrival. He has been on the bench 10 times.

Watch out for...


Former England youth international Flatts, now 23, has yet to impress Bruce Rioch. The Arsenal manager has so far left the 5ft 6in winger languishing in the reserves, with time to reflect on a record of three senior starts in as many seasons. That may change following a deadline-day loan to Grimsby, whose player-manager, Brian Laws, rates him "a super young talent". Debutant Flatts set up the Mariners' winner against Birmingham on Saturday.

Programme notes

No 17: Leeds

Price: pounds 1.50. Pages: 48. Strong on features, with a timely spotlight on Lucas Radebe, whose plans to "repay the faith" of manager Howard Wilkinson probably did not include Saturday's stint in goal. Not quite so strong on the opposition, but that is a minor grumble.