That was the weekend that was

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In-flight entertainment takes the biscuit for Fry

Birmingham City's captain, Liam Daish, fined two weeks' wages after refusing to accept his relegation to the substitute's bench at Portsmouth, is, in fact, lucky that he missed the game that cost him his place.

Centre-back Daish, who was on duty with the Republic of Ireland last week, found himself left out by Birmingham's manager, Barry Fry, in favour of Michael Johnson and Andy Edwards, who were impressive as City won 1- 0 at Perugia in the Anglo-Italian Cup.

But the chosen pair earned their reward at a price - City's excursion into Europe included two and a half hours on the runway at Birmingham waiting to take off, a three-hour coach journey from Rome airport to Perugia and four hours to get back after a pile-up blocked the autostrada in front of them.

What is more, some of the players had skipped breakfast on the outward flight, expecting to be fed on the plane. They were... with two biscuits each.

"Two biscuits!" Fry said. "Two bloody biscuits! I thought we were on Candid Camera.

"We were so hungry we had to force the driver to stop at the services on the way to Perugia. We arrived at our hotel there with just enough time to go the toilet and check out!

"When we got back to Bimringham the fans who had been on our plane said they'd had a great time. I realised later why - they had had so much extra time at the bar that they were sozzled."

Turn back

the clock

Alan Ball may think his first target is to get Manchester City out of the bottom three but there is another one he might like to consider - to avoid becoming the fastest manager through Maine Road's infamous revolving door.

City have had 14 managers since 1971 with an average job-span of 20 months - although several survived less than half that. Johnny Hart, who took over from Malcolm Allison in 1973, was gone in six months; Ron Saunders, who followed him, a mere five - but even they lasted longer than John Benson, appointed in February, 1983 and on his way, after four months, by June. Ball was hired in July.

So that's where they are

How's this for a star-studded Premiership line-up: Woods; Warhurst, Tiler, Scales; Clough; Dumitrescu, Samways, Johnson; Dozzell; Hartson, Kennedy.

My fantasy league team? Well, er... no, actually. But they ought to be someone's, especially considering each has been traded in the real football world for an average fee of almost pounds 2.23m, ranging from Chris Woods at pounds 1.2m to John Scales at pounds 3.5m. The whole lot would have set you back pounds 24.5m.

Unfortunately, they would not have picked up many points for anyone this weekend. None actually made his club's starting line-up, even though eight of them were reckoned to be worth pounds 2m or more when bought and sold in the last two years. Which could mean one of two things: either there are too many fine players chasing too few places, or too many managers who cannot tell a thoroughbred from a lemon.

Red card


























This week's Maine Road moan

It is the bain of a manager's life when you ask people to mark other players and they hand a header like this on a plate to someone who is 5ft 7in

Alan Ball, City manager, after Paul Scholes' derby winner

Vital statistics


The number of strike partners Birmingham match-winner Steve Claridge has had in the last 22 months


The number of seconds Mixu Paatelainen needed to score on his debut for Bolton


The number of league goals scored by Alan Shearer for Blackburn against his old club - Southampton

Idol worship for the idle

Posters, videos, memorabilia - desperate Cantona addicts have plenty to satisfy their cravings when the Frenchman is not playing. Now they can help themselves to another fix - an hour's worth of homage to Eric on compact disc.

For those who really cannot think of a better way to spend pounds 9.99, Cantona: The Album (Exotica Records; cat. no. Pele 10CD) features songs and soundbites brought to you by such artistes as Raymond Bizarre, Red Deville, The Half Time Oranges and Ooh La-La, as well as Captain Sensible, once of The Damned, who presumably feels a certain empathy with his idol.

Tracks include Eric Please Don't Go, Monsieur Genius and Cantona Superstar (or should it be Superstore?). Serious bits, such as they are, come from George Best, Pat Crerand, Graeme le Saux and someone called Ferguson.

Take a bow

Kevin Keegan


Fact and fiction from the Sunday papers

Graham Taylor's time is running out as Wolves manager, according to the People, which reports that the Molineux board cannot wait for banned ex-Arsenal boss George Graham to become available and have switched their attention to former England winger Chris Waddle, reportedly eager to quit Sheffield Wednesday for management.

The People echoes the News of the World in predicting a pounds 2.5m move by Kevin Keegan to bring Jesper Blomqvist from IFK Gothenburg, but is alone in forecasting another Blackburn swoop for Southampton's pounds 1.5m-rated winger, Neil Heaney.

The News of the World says Sheffield Wednesday manager David Pleat has been turned down in a pounds 3.5m cash bid to persuade Manchester City to part with Uwe Rosler. The same paper reports that Leeds are preparing a move for the Argentinian captain, Roberto Ayala, currently on loan from Parma to Napoli.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Express claims that Middlesbrough could steal Ian Rush from under the noses of Celtic.

Torn off a strip

The latest in our occasional series on hideous kits features this little number from Watford, which suggests that Elton John could be back in charge of wardrobe at Vicarage Road. The Hornets may be roughing it these days in the First Division, but was it really necessary to give the impression they were rolling around in the dirt with this smudgy bit on the shoulders?