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The pressures on Andy Cole are familiar to Garry Birtles, whose £1.25m transfer to Manchester United from Nottingham Forest in October 1980 burdened him with similar expectations. It took Birtles 12 games to score his first United goal. "I feel sorry for Andy. There are seven million pressures on him," Birtles said. "At least he is going into a winning side. The team I joined was breaking up and every new player was expected to win the championship for them."

Fate has not been especially kind to the 38-year-old former carpet fitter whom Brian Clough plucked from Long Eaton United for £2,000. Four years ago, a career that took him back to Forest and then on to Notts County and Grimsby was ended by arthritis ofthe lower spine. "I came out of football with the recession on in a big way, when a lot of players finishing had no jobs to go to."

A sometime fundraiser for Long Eaton, Birtles still lives near Nottingham, where he remains well known through his local newspaper column and radio work. He is also establishing a seafood business with a partner from Grimsby.

Jon Culley