That was the weekend that was

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Referee falls foul of SFA

John Rowbotham, the referee at the centre of the notorious Rangers- Aberdeen affair, has been called before the Scottish Football Association to explain why he did not inform them that he had been sacked from his full-time job just two days prior to the match at Ibrox on 11 November.

Referees are duty-bound to inform the SFA of any change to their personal circumstances which might possibly affect their judgement. As a result of incidents in the game, Alan McLaren, of Rangers, and Billy Dodds, of Aberdeen, are the subject of police enquiries, and Paul Gascoigne and John Brown, of Rangers, have been suspended for one match on the strength, controversially, of a report by the referee supervisor Don McVicar. Rowbotham had deemed none worthy of a caution.

Rangers and the players' union have protested that it is the supervisor's job to evaluate the performance of the referee, not the players.

Last week, Rowbotham was hauled before the SFA to explain why he had not told them that he had left his job with a confectionery company, Choculuv. On Saturday, Rowbotham, who is one of Scotland's leading referees, was placed in charge of a Scottish Third Division match between Livingston and Ross County. The goalless game was notable largely for the performance of the referee. He booked nine players.

Runcorn snap up

England coach

Vauxhall Conference strugglers Runcorn do not deal in half measures when it comes to a crisis. Having sacked their manager after losing 8- 0 at home last weekend, they have put the team in the hands of a former England winger and taken on a one-time England coach.

The former is Peter Barnes, whose flowing runs excited crowds at Maine Road and Old Trafford at his peak. Barnes, short-listed to succeed Carroll, is in temporary charge while Runcorn ponder whether to make the job permanent. The side won their first point for him at Altrincham on Saturday.

And the coach? Ron Greenwood? Bobby Robson? Graham Taylor? Well no, actually it's the other sort of coach, with seats and tables and a nice little lounge at the back. But it was once used regularly by the pre-Venables England squad. Tony Bamber, a director of the club, has made it available for Runcorn's away games after acquiring it for his family's travel firm.

"We bought it from Granada TV, who used it to ferry people to the Good Morning show, so it has quite a pedigree," Bamber said. "But then our boys are used to travelling in style - last year's bus formerly belonged to Take That. Not that its past has rubbed off on us so far - we've used it twice and let in four goals each time." Yes, but it was Graham Taylor's England.

Well,

obviously...

'We had no ideas, no life, no desire - and no excuses. We were crap.' Barry Fry, the Birmingham manager, beating about the bush as usual after losing to his old club, Southend.

'If you were looking for people to get you out of jail in the last minute, to stick their heads in where it hurts, Pearce and Cooper would be the first you'd mention.' Frank Clark, after his captain and centre-half combined for Nottingham Forest's last-gasp equaliser at Bolton.

'I've heard David Ginola say on TV that English people could not understand him being left out. Well, I'm not here to please the English.' Aime Jacquet, France's national coach, on the Newcastle player's exclusion from his plans

'It's up to you fellows to find words to describe him. I'm just delighted he plays for us and not someone else.' Ray Harford, bereft of new superlatives for Alan Shearer.

'If you worry too much about these chaps you'll drive yourself stupid.' Ray Wilkins, the QPR manager, after countering the threat of Juninho.

'I give the players pounds 20 for a round of drinks when they keep a clean sheet. I wish I was a couple of hundred quid worse off.' John Rudge, the Port Vale manager, after coughing up for only the fourth time this season.

'No approach from any club under any circumstances will be considered.' Famous last words in a statement from Leicester City on the future of their manager Mark McGhee, who appears to be going to Wolves.

Rumours

Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Wimbledon's mooted move from London to Dublin, apparently blocked by both the Football Association and its Irish equivalent, is still on, according to the Sunday Express, which reported secret talks between Wimbledon's manager, Joe Kinnear, and owner, Sam Hamman, and the millionaire music mogul Paul McGuinness.

McGuinness, the manager of the rock group U2, is said to have assembled "heavyweight backing" for the scheme, which would involve changing the club's name to Dublin City and playing in a purpose-built 70,000-seat stadium, with free season tickets and special travel arrangements for existing fans.

Meanwhile, the People claims that Dion Dublin is being lined up for a move from Coventry, having been targeted for a pounds 3m bid from Middlesbrough. Bryan Robson, the manager, is said to see his former Manchester United colleague as a more useful target man than the Norwegian Jan Age Fjortoft.

The People also predicts a pounds 2m move by Tottenham for the Portuguese international centre-half Fernando Couto, currently with Parma. The Mail on Sunday anticipates Chelsea offering pounds 4.5m plus Paul Furlong for Wimbledon's Dean Holdsworth.

Turn back

the clock

Neil Shipperley's goal for Southampton at Anfield on Saturday sent statisticians into a frenzy of activity, thumbing through the record books to find the last instance of Liverpool losing four home games in a row.

It will surprise no one to learn that it has not been a regular occurrence. Indeed, the last time was the 1923-24 season, when Newcastle - whose Coca- Cola Cup victory last week set up the possibility of a repeat - followed Aston Villa, Sheffield United and Cardiff by winning at Anfield.

Southampton had won there in 1981-82, with Kevin Keegan, Alan Ball and Mick Channon in their line-up, so there was some precedent for those anticipating the unlikely. Liverpool fans might have felt that they had waited almost as long for a Stan Collymore goal, but perhaps they need not be perturbed over their team's mid-season slump.

In 1985-86, Liverpool were at one stage 11 points behind the leaders Everton, who won 2-0 at Anfield in February. Thereafter, inspired by the first-season enthusiasm of their player-manager Kenny Dalglish, they won 11 of their last 12 matches to take the title for an eighth time in 11 years.

10

reasons why...

Sky's Endsleigh League deal and growing monopoly is a bad thing

1 Too much extra-terrestrial Richard Keys

2 Not enough earth-bound Des Lynam

3 Too much hype and pre-match build-up: does tonight's coverage of Sheffield Wednesday v Coventry really have to start an hour before the kick-off?

4 Too many adverts for Ford Mondeos

5 Too much touchline twaddle from the anorak with a microphone

6 Football on a Friday night: do they expect away fans to take yet another day off work?

7 All those repeats of Sky's live matches

8 Awful theme tune: "Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go, (For Goodness Sake) Switch It Off"

9 Barry Venison's haircut

10 Barry Venison's clothes

Win a bottle of

champagne

Provide us with an 11th reason in not more than three words and you could win a bottle of vintage champagne.

Telephone 0891-252-336 to enter. Calls should cost no more than the price of a first-class stamp. Lines close on Thursday 7 December. Normal Newspaper Publishing rules apply.

Red card

JEFF WINTER

The Stockton-on-Tees referee, whose decision to penalise and then caution Andy Townsend, of Aston Villa, after his collision with Nigel Winterburn, of Arsenal, on Saturday suggested that it must now be an offence to be run into by another player. Perhaps he will redeem himself by admitting his error.

Take a bow

PORT VALE

For keeping faith with John Rudge, despite their dreadful season. Rudge is the longest-serving English manager after Dario Gradi of Crewe, and this month completes 12 years in charge. Vale enjoyed their first home win of the season on Saturday, at the 10th attempt, although they are still bottom of the First Division.

Missing person

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Nottingham Forest)

A pounds 2.5m move from Arsenal was supposed to be a career-reviver, but has brought little but frustration. Out since 12 September with a back problem, Campbell (right) resumed training two weeks ago, only for flu at the City Ground to cause his comeback match in the reserves to be postponed. With Bryan Roy and Jason Lee injured, he was named for the senior squad at Bolton but then succumbed to the bug himself.

Watch out for...

GARY CROFT (Grimsby)

While Ivano Bonetti has been stealing the headlines, Brian Laws, the Grimsby manager, has been pointing out he has more than one useful ball- player. The 21-year-old defender, described by Gerry Francis as "the only two-footed player outside the Premiership", has been regularly monitored by Arsenal, Newcastle and Tottenham and Laws reluctantly admits: "I expect him to be gracing the Premiership sooner rather than later."

Programme notes

No 1: Blackburn

Price: pounds 1.50. Pages: 40. A modest lot, Rovers. After the thrashing of Forest, some crowing might have been excused in Saturday's issue. But no, a discreet two-page spread tucked away almost at the end. Convivial pictures of the players in Moscow - in Red Square rather than on the pitch. High family content but not quite in the champions' league.

Verdict

6/10

PREMIER XI

TEAM OF THE WEEKEND

WALSH

MIDDLESBROUGH

READY

QPR

PEARSON

MIDDLESBROUGH

COOPER

NOTTM FOR

WRIGHT

A VILLA

FOX

TOTTENHAM

KINKLADZE

MAN CITY

CURCIC

BOLTON

LIMPAR

EVERTON

SHEARER

BLACKBURN

FERDINAND

NEWCASTLE

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