That was the weekend that was

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'Atherton and Walker did OK against Shearer, but perhaps they should have fouled him earlier. We were doing all right until he scored' - David Pleat, lamenting Sheffield Wednesday's disintegration at Ewood Park.

'We are out of the cups and he says it doesn't matter because he's only interested in the League. We aren't good enough yet to say we will just go for the League' - Newcastle's Kevin Keegan, not quite sharing chairman Sir John Hall's single-mindedness.

'I'm not going to harp on about our defending. Let's just say not too many other strikers would have got a goal like that' - Everton manager Joe Royle applauding Ian Wright's goal against his team.

'We lost the game through one player's indiscipline. He didn't just let himself down, he let his team-mates down too' - Bryan Robson, blaming Middlesbrough's defeat on Phil Whelan's red card.

'People have tended to write us off. They come to our ground and regard us as country bumpkins. But I don't give a monkey's what anyone says - we are a hard side to play against' Saints boss Dave Merrington.

'I think sending him off was over the top because he attempted to get the ball. It has to be a goalscoring chance and you've got to remember that it was Rob Jones going through' - Liverpool manager Roy Evans, sympathising with dismissed Gary Kelly.


Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Both the People and the News of the World ran "exclusive" stories linking Kenny Dalglish with the England manager's job.

According to the People, the former Liverpool and Blackburn boss is "desperate" to succeed Terry Venables, having "told close pals that he would walk to Lancaster Gate to take the reins". The News of the World quoted a Football Association source as saying: "It is not mandatory for the new man to be English."

Kevin Keegan insists "there is no player in the world I cannot afford to buy" in a Mail on Sunday report, which seemed to be confirmed by a News of the World story suggesting that the Newcastle manager flew to Germany yesterday to tie up a pounds 1m deal with Bayern Munich for Frenchman Jean-Pierre Papin and will return to step up his bid to pounds 6m for QPR's Trevor Sinclair and also make a pounds 3m attempt to snatch Blackburn's David Batty from under the noses of Leeds.

Meanwhile, Juventus are prepared to spend pounds 10m on Alan Shearer as a replacement for Gianluca Vialli, according to the People, who reckon that Alex Ferguson will have to part with pounds 2m plus Paul Scholes if he is to tempt Wolves to release Dean Richards.

Turn back

the clock

Muscled out of the Coca-Cola Cup by Arsenal, shot down in the FA Cup by Chelsea, the last couple of weeks have not been the happiest in Kevin Keegan's quest for silverware - but at least Newcastle can now concentrate on the League.

After all, as every manager knows, nothing undermines a title bid so much as the distraction of a cup run...or does it?

Newcastle's double exit mirrors the fate of Leeds in 1992, who went out of both major knock-out competitions within one January week before going on to win the championship. Last year, Blackburn, out of the Coca-Cola in November, were also third-round casualties in the FA Cup.

However, only four third-round failures have become League champions since 1971. And while 14 of the 25 title-winners in that period did not survive beyond round five, the same proportion reached the semi-finals in at least one competition.

Indeed for Liverpool, champions 11 times in 25 years and a major threat to Newcastle, cup and League success has gone hand in glove, with a semi- final or better in each of their last nine title years.


reasons why...

The Intertoto Cup should be avoided

1 Nobody should want to play in a cup that sounds like a Hungarian petrol company

2 British clubs will get knocked out in the first round anyway

3 Sky might televise it if British clubs take part

4 With the matches played in midsummer, there will probably be no chance of getting a Bovril at half-time

5 How can you take seriously a competition which ends after the quarter- finals?

6 We've already got more cups than Harrods

7 Because any self-respecting footballer should be on a beach in Florida in July

8 Do we really want to give Wimbledon another chance in Europe?

9 If it's Uefa's idea, it's probably a bad thing

10 Blackburn might qualify and show us up again

World Cup in 3-D

Japan and South Korea are using the promise of the millennium's new technology to promote their bids for the 2002 World Cup.

Japan is ready to invest $200-300m (pounds 135-200m) on a project to turn stadiums not being used for matches into three-dimensional theatres where spectators could watch games on retractable parabolic screens, 35 metres high by 80 metres wide, set on either side of the field.

Missing person

FRANZ CARR (Aston Villa)

Brian Little's decision to take Carr (right) from Leicester last February as part of the deal that saw Garry Parker leave Villa Park remains a mystery. The 29-year-old former Nottingham Forest winger, whom Little bought from Sheffield United while manager at Filbert Street, has yet to start a first- team game for Villa, his eighth club, and has not kicked a ball this season, even on the five occasions he has been a sub.

Watch out for...

MICHAEL GRAY (Sunderland)

Unable to establish his credentials under cautious former manager Mick Buxton, the 21-year-old midfielder has, by contrast, been virtually an automatic choice since Peter Reid launched the Roker revival and performed impressively against Manchester United in the FA Cup. His emergence has not gone unnoticed, however, and a price tag of pounds 2m has not deterred Tottenham, among others, from keeping tabs on his progress.

Programme notes

No 7: Man City

Price: pounds 1.50. Pages: 40. Thinner than some but probably as comprehensive as any, with a decent read on almost every page, if you can put up with Alan Ball eulogising Georgi Kinkladze (again). Touching valedictory message from Paul Lake, too.



Red card


Take a bow