That was the weekend that was

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FA forget the ins and outs of all the ups and downs

Martin O'Neill's appearance at a Football Association hearing where he successfully appealed against a 10-match touchline ban recalled for one FA employee his embarrassment when he realised the fact that Norwich had been relegated had passed him by.

O'Neill's punishment for directing abusive comments at the referee Paul Rejer, when he was in charge of Wycombe in last season's game at Bournemouth, was due to begin on the first day of the season.

Yet the FA gave a starting date of 19 August - the Premiership kick-off - and not 12 August, when the First Division season began. At Thursday's hearing it was hard to tell afterwards that the Norwich manager had, in fact, partially won his case. The ban was reduced to a suspension, although the fine was increased from pounds 1,000 to pounds 3,000.

While bracing themselves for the decision of the appeals board, Robert Chase, the Norwich chairman said to O'Neill: "Now you know how OJ Simpson felt, waiting for his verdict."

Turn back

the clock

Bryan Robson was afforded a rapturous welcome from the Manchester United supporters on his return to Old Trafford with Middlesbrough. His long and distinguished career as a United player began on 10 October 1981 with an appearance in the red No 7 shirt in the Manchester derby at Maine Road.

The game ended scoreless; in those days City did not always get beaten. That season, United finished third in the First Division behind Liverpool and Ipswich, while Middlesbrough were bottom and were relegated with Wolves and Leeds.

Elsewhere on that day, Swansea - who finished in sixth place in the First Division - beat Arsenal 2-0 and Ian Rush (a two-goal scorer on Saturday against Manchester City) claimed a pair in Liverpool's 3-0 win over Leeds. Lincoln, currently the worst of all 92 clubs, fared better then, beating Wimbledon 5-1 in a Third Division fixture.

Rangers feel the heat

What is going on at Loftus Road? The QPR players are dropping like flies - Daniele Dichio missed the game with Nottingham Forest after collapsing in the dressing room with a virus, Ian Holloway has been suffering all week and Ned Zelic's first appearance also fell victim to the same complaint.

Might it have something to do with the temperatures around the west London ground. After their Coca-Cola Cup defeat there, the York manager, Alan Little, complained of the heat in their dressing room and suspected gamesmanship. Not so, said QPR's Ray Wilkins. The home dressing room was just as uncomfortable and prompted him into sending out his players five minutes early for the start of the second half to get some fresh air.

"In fact, I have always thought that 15 minutes was too long for half- time anyway," Wilkins said. "I don't know why we don't change round straight away."

Red card

MICK McCARTHY

PREMIER XI

TEAM OF THE WEEKEND

MIKLOSKO

WEST HAM

McATEER

LIVERPOOL

WRIGHT

LIVERPOOL

COOPER

NOTTM FOREST

IRWIN

MAN UTD

SINCLAIR

QPR

MONCUR

WEST HAM

McALLISTER

LEEDS

GIGGS

MAN UTD

YORKE

ASTON VILLA

FOWLER

LIVERPOOL

Excuses, excuses

"We were far and away the better footballing side. But we didn't get to look at the whites of the goalie's eyes as often as I'd have liked."

Alan Buckley, the manager of West Bromwich Albion,

after their 2-1 defeat at Millwall.

Vital statistics

2

The number of players claiming four-goal honours: Andy McFarlane for Scunthorpe at Torquay and Phil Stant for Bury at Mansfield.

120

The number of seconds it took Ian Rush to score for Liverpool and begin yet another defeat for Manchester City.

222

The lowest League attendance in England or Scotland - at Cowdenbeath versus Queen's Park.

24

Nottingham Forest's run of unbeaten Premiership games. They still have some way to go to pass their own record, set in 1977-78, of 42 First Division matches without defeat.

At the right hand of...?

One of the thousands of young boys kicking footballs around the back streets of Naples has more reason than most to want to follow in the footsteps of Diego Maradona, who won two Italian League titles with Napoli in the 1980s.

Diego Armando Maradona Jnr is nine and has never met or even spoken to his father, but his performances for Virtus Napoli, one of the city's leading football schools, are earning him rave reviews and comparisons with the man who left Naples in 1991 amid allegations of drug trafficking.

Diego Jnr shares the same stocky frame and curly black hair. He also weaves around players with the ball seemingly tied to his foot. He talks a good game as well. "I want to be a champion like my father and play for Napoli and Argentina. And when I play against England I'll score two goals; one with my foot, the other with my hand."

Take a bow

KEVIN PRESSMAN

He even had to put up with abuse about his weight. "He told me, 'You're fat'," Pressman said. "I said, 'You want to take a look at yourself some time.'"

Rumours

Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Chelsea, who have conceded seven goals in two games, are on the lookout for new strikers. Their target is John Hartson, the young Arsenal centre- forward, according to the People. However, the Sunday Mirror reports that they have offered Wimbledon pounds 5m for Dean Holdsworth.

Alex Ferguson is weighing up a pounds 2m bid for the Algerian international Loussa Saib says the Mail on Sunday. Manchester United's manager will watch the right-sided attacker when his French club Auxerre visit Nottingham Forest on Tuesday in the Uefa Cup.

Chris Sutton's problems at Blackburn will force him to submit a transfer request, predicts the News of the World. The same paper highlights Stan Collymore's struggles to win a Liverpool place and the fact that team- mates are wondering if he is strong enough mentally to adapt to his big- club surroundings and regain his striker's berth. He has missed two days' training recently with a mystery complaint.

The People says Roy Evans, Liverpool's manager, is set to spend again with his new target the pounds 3m-rated Charlton youngster Lee Bowyer. The same paper says Everton want QPR's Trevor Sinclair and are preparing a pounds 6m package to include Anders Limpar and Vinny Samways.

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