The Sweeper: Shrinks leaving Saints to sink

SOUTHAMPTON'S RELAPSE this season would appear to be all in the mind. Last season, when they were riding high in the Premiership (well, mid-table anyway) and handing out beatings to the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea they were being aided by the senior sports psychologists of the Roehampton Institute. This season, however, Dave Jones, the Saints' manager, has, to a large extent, shunned their support.

While a graduate from the Institute is based at The Dell, the club are no longer receiving the hands-on assistance they did last season from Craig Mahoney, the head of sports studies at Roehampton.

"It's unfair and inappropriate to say that Roehampton is involved with the club at the moment," Mahoney said, distancing the Institute from the struggling club. "Last year was a very good season, lots of things came together very well. The players were quite cohesive but there have been a few changes - players sold and lots of others purchased - dynamics change when this occurs."

Asked whether he thought the signing of too many players who were past their best was responsible (Mark Hughes, Stuart Ripley and David Hirst), he replied: "I think when you question individuals you find they still have some level of aspiration/inspiration but, of course, they're not young bucks any more, they're not out to impress in the way that someone starting out in a career does, who sees himself going higher, further and further.

"The request for my support didn't come from David [Jones] initially. But, now he's more in control of the club, he probably feels he wants to stamp his opinion more closely on what goes on at the club rather than bringing in outside support. I understand that, but I don't say I agree with it."

MONDAY WILL be the first anniversary of Billy Bremner's death but his memory lives on in the hearts of his many friends and former colleagues. Few, though, can have made quite as poignant a tribute to the former Scotland and Leeds midfield dynamo as Ian Snodin, the ex-Leeds midfielder and now Doncaster Rovers' player-manager, who has named his newly-built house "Bremner Lodge".

"Without him, it wouldn't have been built," said Snodin, who was signed by Bremner at Belle Vue as a 14-year-old and later also played under him when the latter made his ill-fated return to Elland Road.

John Gregory, the Aston Villa manager, has likewise named his house after the boss, though in his case that is Bruce Springsteen rather than his mentor, Terry Venables. It was a toss-up between three of the Boss's major hits, "Thunder Road", "Glory Days" and "Rosalita", and Gregory eventually opted for the latter. Of course, he could have just called it The Villa.

Given his close association with Elton John over the years, one would have thought that Gregory's predecessor at Villa Park, Graham Taylor, would have called his house "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (after his England experience) or even "Rocket Man" (after his firing by Wolves). But, no, it's "Poacher's Retreat". So, the one-time full-back is really a frustrated striker.

IT'S BEEN a rough week for John Gregory's opposite number today, Alex Ferguson, what with the loss of his right-hand man Brian Kidd to Blackburn Rovers and his son forced to run for his life in Italy. Darren Ferguson must have thought Molineux was a pretty intimidating place to play at until he arrived at Cosenza, in southern Italy, for the first day of a week's trial with the Serie B club. Training had only just begun when angry fans invaded the pitch, forcing Ferguson and his new team-mates to flee. They were protesting over the sacking of the club's coach, Juliano Sonzongni. What Mark McGhee would have given for such a show of loyalty.

"Darren was going to fax me with details of Cosenza's terms, " Wolves' new manager, Colin Lee, said, "but since I haven't heard from him, I can only assume he is on his way home."

YOU CAN blame Tony Blair for escalating health costs. During Leicester's game against Chelsea recently, Robbie Savage had to depart from the field suffering from concussion. The doctor asked the player the usual questions to see how bad the blow had been, but when the Welsh international was unable to tell him who the Prime Minister was, he was sent to hospital for observation overnight.

When Savage awoke next morning he was asked the same questions: Who is Chelsea's manager?"

"Vialli" replied Savage quick as a flash.

"Who's the Prime Minister?"

"Er, er, er..." at which point Savage's girlfriend leapt in with the answer. "It was on the tip of my tongue" said Savage, "same as it was last night."

ANY SPURS fans wondering why they cannot get a ticket for the derby against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on 19 December should know that, when their 2,000 allocation was sold out, they were offered a further 1,600 tickets - but Tottenham turned them down. I don't suppose the fact that they are showing the match on their big screens at White Hart Lane at pounds 10 a time for adults had anything to do with the rejection.

IT WOULD seem that Cyrille Regis, the former West Bromwich Albion striker and born-again Christian, has been reincarnated as a French winger-cum- central defender just a few miles down the road from the Hawthorns, at Walsall. The Albion coach was, after all, French-Guyana born.

Included among the squad for today's FA Cup second-round tie against Preston North End at Deepdale are the Saddlers' two recent signings - Cyrille L'Helgoualch and, yes, you've guessed it, Regis Garrault. Well, they always said he had the strength of two players.