That was the weekend that was

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Asprilla lets heart rule his head

Kevin Keegan may profess to be at ease with Faustino Asprilla's public image but that did not stop the Newcastle manager issuing at least one strict order to the Colombian on his weekend off.

"Go as you please," Keegan is reputed to have said as his pounds 6.7m star left on a four-day trip to Italy, "but, whatever you do, don't talk to journalists."

Asprilla flew back to Parma with plans to watch yesterday's match in Piacenza, as well as last Thursday's Cup-Winners' Cup tie against Paris St Germain, which hardly counts as keeping your head down. But, fully aware that the Italian media would be tracking his every move, he turned down VIP treatment to sit among the fans. Not that he went unnoticed, of course, even with his collar turned up against the cold.

Apparently, he still counts himself as a Parma fan, too, despite the sour end to his career there. When Hristo Stoichkov scored the winner against the French side, Asprilla, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, "chanted and stamped his feet, like a true Parmigiano".

He would have been less happy about the outcome of yesterday's match, which Parma lost 2-1 to stay 10 points behind Milan. Parma were decimated by suspensions. No change there then, with or without Asprilla.

Speedie back on best behaviour

Relegation battles in the Beazer Homes League are not normally crowd pullers but then there was extra curiosity value in bottom-of-the- table VS Rugby's six-pointer against local rivals Atherstone on Saturday.

It marked the start of yet another extension to the career of former Scottish international striker David Speedie, whose firebrand reputation once made him the object of almost universal terrace hatred. Speedie has joined Atherstone United, for whom his debut drew 620 spectators - double the average turnout - to Rugby's Butlin Road ground.

Speedie, 36, Midlands-based since he left Chelsea for Coventry in 1987, lives less than five minutes' drive from Atherstone's Sheepy Road headquarters and described the arrangement as "a labour of love". His new club know he is rather beyond his sell-by date - his knees were written off when Leicester retired him in 1994 - but believe his experience can help them escape the drop.

They are also aware of his somewhat stormy past - his "comeback" with Crawley Town this season ended after 12 bookings, one sending-off and a two-week club fine - but are willing to take the risk.

"Obviously there are going to be attempts to wind him up," Atherstone director Keith Allen said, "but I can say that David coped very well and behaved impeccably, as we expected he would."

Well,

obviously...

'No, in fact when Pearce practises his shooting in training Crossley gets as far away from the goal as he can - come to think of it, they all do' - Frank Clark in answer to a question about whether Forest's penalty shoot-out hero practised the art very much.

'It's just a guessing game, really' Mark Crossley, on how he managed to save three of Spurs' spot-kicks.

'One keeper moves a little bit early, [the ball] doesn't quite go in the corner, and he makes a good save. The other keeper stays until the ball's been kicked and they score. It's very much a lottery' - Gerry Francis, carping just a little bit.

'It always seems to be us. This is the same guy that sent off Robbie Earle at QPR and Paul Heald at Newcastle, as well as Vinnie Jones. But I'm in enough trouble so I have to be careful with what I say' - Wimbledon's Joe Kinnear, on referee Graham Poll's performance.

'I have seen him do it a couple of before this season. I don't think I will need to tell him not to do it again' - Bryan Robson, on Gary Walsh's Upton Park howler.

'It's not all doom and gloom. We are due a run and have a nice easy one next week - Manchester United' - Ray Wilkins, tries to look on the bright side of QPR's grim plight.

'Every time I go out they chant my name which brings a lump to my throat. My contract is for three years I'll see that out no problem' - Paul Gascoigne, committing himself to Rangers.

Rumours

Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Ian Wright's bombshell transfer request at Highbury had sub-editors at The People, the Sunday Express and the News of the World leaping for the "exclusive" tags.

The News of the World went a step further and pinned "world exclusive" to their version, probably with some justification if the label has any meaning at all. Certainly there was more meat in theirs than in either of the other two, quoting the player extensively - "Certain things this season have hurt me...my efforts have not been appreciated...I have been criticised harshly and unfairly" - and predicting a power battle between manager Bruce Rioch and vice-chairman David Dein.

On the transfer front, The People fancies a move by Southampton for Leicester's "missing person" Mark Robins is in the offing, with the Midlands club likely to want a pounds 500,000 fee to advance their clear-out further.

And the News of the World says that Joe Royle will pitch in with a pounds 5m offer for Dean Holdsworth once Wimbledon's Premiership fate is settled. The Sunday Express reckons Ian Rush is considering an offer from Leeds to become player-coach.

Missing person

MARK KENNEDY (Liverpool)

Every now and then, Liverpool perform a curious sort of conjuring trick in which they spend a lot of money on a player and then make him disappear. Mark Kennedy (right), signed for pounds 1.5m from Millwall last March, is a classic example. Although he made six appearances soon after his move, the Dublin-born winger has started only once this season. Happily, at 19, he is young enough to begin again elsewhere.

Watch out for...

EMILE HESKEY (Leicester City)

With Julian Joachim gone, the Filbert Street spotlight falls on another prospect, an 18-year-old striker who has shown a cool head and a clinical finish six times in a handful of games. What's more, he has provided new manager Martin O'Neill with his only moments of unqualified joy so far in what is proving a difficult inheritance - two goals in a 3-2 win over Mark McGhee's Wolves last month, and two more to beat Grimsby on Saturday.

Turn back

the clock

Bruce Rioch has not, to our knowledge, had regular encounters with soothsayers but has every reason to beware the Ides of March...or at least to mind his Ps and Qs around the ninth, which is possibly not his luckiest date.

Take, for example, 9 March, 1978 - a good night for Derby County, who unexpectedly beat Liverpool 4-2 at the Baseball Ground, but less so for Rioch. He chose the occasion to enter a furious public row with Derby manager Tommy Docherty, beginning in a corridor by the press room and continuing in the street outside.

It all stemmed, apparently, from a pounds 450 fine imposed on Rioch for leaving the field injured the previous weekend without telling the bench he was coming off. Derby suspended for him two weeks and put him on the transfer list, although the rift was later healed.

Then there was 9 March, 1990, by which time the former Scotland captain was gaining managerial experience at Middlesbrough. Not the happiest experience, however. Boro, relegated from the old First Division in 1989, were slipping towards the Third when Rioch was asked to clear his desk.

So don't be surprised at the timing of Ian Wright's transfer request...

10

reasons why...

Fifa should replace the penalty shoot-out with sudden death

1 It would be a better and fairer way to find a winner

2 England could take on Germany in World Cup semi-finals with less trepidation

3 Chris Waddle would have fewer nightmares

4 It would reduce the suicide rate among footballers and fans

5 Supporters would get more football for their money, although that might be a disadvantage if you support QPR

6 It could give the late night bus service more custom at evening games - or afternoon games if it's QPR v Bolton

7 It would do wonders for shares in electricity companies

8 We would have more idea whether Mark Crossley is the exception to the rule when it comes to Scottish keepers

9 Birmingham fans would have less chance of watching their team miss another penalty

10 It would make a change for Fifa to do something sensible

n Vitor Baia, the goalkeeper of Bobby Robson's Porto and also the national team, faces a ban of between one and four years, according to some reports, for allegedly punching the vice-president of opponents, Campomaiorense. Porto claim that Pedro Morcela had insulted their players and that the goalkeeper was merely defending himself. Tempers ran high during the closing stages of Friday's match which Porto won with a goal in injury time

Red card

MICK HARFORD

Take a bow

DEAN WINDASS

FA CUP XI

TEAM OF THE WEEKEND

CROSSLEY

NOTTM FOREST

PETRESCU

CHELSEA

MABBUTT

TOTTENHAM

BLACKWELL

WIMBLEDON

PEARCE

NOTTM FOR

McMANAMAN

LIVERPOOL

GULLIT

CHELSEA

WISE

CHELSEA

WOAN

NOTTM FOR

ROY

NOTTM FOR

SHERINGHAM

TOTTENHAM

Programme notes No 14: Sunderland

Price: pounds 1.50. Pages: 48. By fortuitous coincidence, Sunderland relaunched their match magazine in time for this review. More attractive features than a room full of supermodels, there was even five pages devoted to the opposition. Excellent.

Verdict

9/10

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