To lose one manager may be considered unfortunate, to lose two in a year suggests someone is trying to tell you something

ON SATURDAY
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The Independent Online
On Wednesday night, as he chipped and drilled, headed and flicked, and drove the Irish defence to distraction, you could almost feel the intake of breath across Europe at the performance of Patrick Kluivert. "All skill," Ruud Gullit called him. And he was right. It is not just Tony Adams who will be losing sleep at the thought of facing his pace, his control, his ease next summer. Paulo Maldini will be too, that's how good he is.

At 19, Kluivert is a terrifying prospect. If Stan Collymore fetches pounds 8.5m, imagine what Kluivert is worth, imagine what confidence it must engender in a team having him in front of you, imagine how happy you would now be if you had, a month ago, put a tenner on the Netherlands to win the European Championship at 16-1. In short, imagine what, this year, every Premiership manager would like their true love to give them on the first day of Christmas: a Kluivert in the youth team.

Few, sadly, will get one (except perhaps Alex Ferguson, who appears intent on ensuring the contract of every promising young player in the country is in his back pocket by the end of the festive season). Instead most managers' Christmas cheer will consist of fixture indigestion and points- loss hangover. But if anyone was looking for present ideas for the stockings of the year's sporting heroes, here are a few suggestions.

Martin George, chairman of Leicester City could use a pair of manacles. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: to lose one manager may be considered unfortunate, to lose two in a year suggests someone is trying to tell you something.

Steve Stone, England's unimpaired-by-hair midfield dynamo, would appreciate a new name. Thus sparing him - and us - of the awful tabloid headlines which accompany his regular heroics: "Stone Me", "Precious Stone", and the most recent "Stoned In Love With You", which was clearly composed by someone who was at the time. Shearer might be a good name. Then at least Terry Venables would be able to boast of one Shearer who can score for England.

Two of the men Stone has leap-frogged over into the national team - David Batty and Graeme Le Saux - might benefit from a copy of the latest UN ceasefire proposals for Bosnia signed in Paris this week, with all its practical suggestions about how not to invade each other's defensible space. Or alternatively, a contract with Frank Warren. Or maybe just a transfer.

There are a lot of things Terry Venables himself would want at the moment, not least a catastrophic collapse in the fortunes of Italian and Polish football. But as a big exponent of using the ball during training sessions, he would be particularly thrilled with a couple of extra balls to kick around the Bisham Abbey grass. Harry Harris's preferably.

What do you give a man worth pounds 115m? Well, Ken Bates's Chelsea shareholding would not go amiss in Matthew Harding's pillow case. Short of that, a controlling interest in a club no one else wants to own might make his life easier. Brighton, perhaps, or Hull City. And on the subject of big money, Rob Andrew, presently in control of Newcastle Rugby Club, a large amount of Sir John Hall's cash and a team that no one wants to join, would be grateful for anyone capable of executing an efficient crash-tackle on an opponent clean through in a scoring position. Ludek Miklosko would do.

At Middlesbrough Football Club, a North-eastern institution better able to attract incoming talent, the transfer sensation of the year has bedded in far better than was predicted. It was assumed Juninho would freeze up in the cold easterlies sweeping in direct from the Urals, but he has hardly flinched. No point giving him gloves, then, particularly as he seems to have arrived in England loaded down with thermals, knitted in advance by anxious members of his extended family. But the industrial air of his new home town has played havoc with his complexion: some of Stephen Hendry's left-over Clearasil would be gratefully received.

In motor racing Murray Walker would be equally cheerful for a job (Rory Bremner would be relieved if Walker got one too); Damon Hill could use a new excuse; and Michael Schumacher a decent opponent. And in cricket, a laser range-finder in Devon Malcolm's stocking might cut down on injuries in the stands; while Brian Lara could do with a bit of practice; and Mark Ramprakash would love a long run in the England team. Well just one run, actually.

And elsewhere, Will Carling would find life easier if given a year's membership of a men-only gym; we would all be grateful were Eric Hall to receive another word to replace his ever-present "monster" ("prat" would do); and Jeff Tarango, after his petulant outburst at Wimbledon should be given a night out with Duncan Ferguson, Eric Cantona and Julian Dicks. With Denis Wise tagging along to order the cab home.

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