FOR THE first time ever, two former England managers will cross swords at club level today, when Watford visit Crystal Palace in a First Division match at Selhurst Park. Graham Taylor and his successor at Lancaster Gate, Terry Venables, are old adversaries but they have never met post- England. Coincidentally, both are now back at the clubs where their managerial careers first flourished.
Unfortunately, Taylor will not be there in person because he is still recovering from a severe chest and throat infection, for which he has been hospitalised, and it was thought he might be tempted to start bellowing instructions from the bench. Instead Kenny Jackett, the first-team coach, will be in charge of the Watford team.
Former England managers have always either retired or, like Don Revie and Bobby Robson, gone abroad to work. Indeed, before Taylor and Venables resumed their club careers only Sir Alf Ramsey, in modern times, had returned to club football, ever so briefly at Birmingham City in 1977-78.
While a BT advert ("it's good to talk") a couple of years ago may have suggested that the two men were on the same wavelength, they have always been poles apart, at least in terms of football ideology. While Venables was infinitely the more successful as an international manager, in head- to-heads Taylor has invariably come out on top. Indeed, Venables has only beaten him once in 11 league and cup meetings, and that was in 1987-88, when he was manager of Tottenham and Taylor was in charge at Aston Villa. On Palace's and Watford's recent form, the trend looks like continuing.
TO ALL intents, the death knell of the long established Football Combination and Central League - nowadays known as the Avon Insurance Combination and Pontins League - was sounded this week at Loughborough when the Football Association's Academy clubs voted four to one in favour of recommending a new open-age regional reserve league, to come into force next season. It had been an open secret that they would do so, ever since the Premier League gave notice that its members would quit the existing set-up. The new league, however, exceeds the Academy's terms of reference when set up a year ago. It was originally only meant to provide for the development of young players between the ages of nine and 21.
It is debatable whether there is anything to be gained from this reorganisation but there is certainly a lot to be lost for clubs like Preston North End and Stoke City. They have fought their way up through the Pontins League to a position where they are playing Manchester United and Liverpool and drawing crowds, in the case of Preston, almost as big as those as they do for first-team fixtures. For these clubs, who are not members of the Academy, it is a bitter blow. "We've worked very hard to get there and we're not keen to give it up," said David Moyes, the Preston manager. "Some of the clubs are putting out teams worth pounds 20-25m and providing vital experience for our young lads."
WALTER SMITH, the Everton manager, may have been in the dark about Duncan Ferguson's transfer to Newcastle prior to last Monday's game, but it was common knowledge among hundreds of Evertonians. Why? Ferguson's dad was in a pub opposite the ground before the game telling everyone his son had signed for the Geordies. The club continued to deny the rumour throughout the evening, even though Ferguson could be seen from the street below talking to Newcastle officials.
THEY MAY have suffered relegation from the Football League last season but Doncaster Rovers are way out ahead when it comes to self-promotion. This week they signed their biggest ever sponsorship deal, with Beazer Homes, and, on the back of their surprise FA Cup win at Southend recently, one might say, they are milking renewed interest in the club for all it's worth. Following a deal with the local dairy, 15,000 bottles of milk are going into Doncaster homes every day bearing the club crest. Although as the Conference's bottom club, it's not so much a pinta-a-day that they need as a point-a-day.
ARSENAL MAY have been as unimpressive in defeat against Wimbledon last week as they were in midweek when flunking out of the European Cup, but Robbie Earle, the Dons' midfielder, remains a fan. The columnist-cum-player was on the phone to his paper, the Observer, immediately after the Premiership game to ask them to promote Arsenal from fourth to third in his mid-season predictions for the later editions, at the cost of the leaders Aston Villa.
DEFLATED RATHER the elated was more the word for it when the Football League Under-21 squad embarked at Heathrow for their trip to Italy in midweek. The check-in desk for their Alitalia flight to Rome refused to accept 20 inflated footballs so they all had to be individually deflated and then pumped up again at the other end. It's a wonder they still had enough breath left to draw 1 -1 draw with their Serie B counterparts.
STUART HALL will know exactly how Roy Hodgson felt. It was a knockout all right, but not the sort the game show host of the same name once revelled in. The KO for this Stuart Hall, the most successful manager in the history of the Dr Martens League club Halesowen Town came, came as it did for Hodgson, in the shape of the sack. "They said it was by mutual consent," said the blunt-talking Hall, "but all I can say is that there's a bloomin' great hand print on my back!"
As You Were
RONALD F ATKINSON was a player (No 6) at Oxford United in the late 60s when the photograph above was taken, but it cannot be confirmed that a scuffle broke out when someone asked the big man if his middle initial stood for Flash. It cannot be confirmed either that Big Ron was berating his fellow players for nicking a Rolex, three chunky rings, two medallions, a gold-leaf cigar holder and a chest wig from his locker. Or that the referee said: "Calm down, son. I know that chunky sheepskin you saw me in before kick-off looks familiar, but I assure you it's my own. If only you could keep your temper down a bit, you might have a management career ahead of you."
The price is right
"CHEER UP gloomy Sweeper, oh what can it mean, to a sad football tipster and his..." - all right, that'll do. Liverpool, Villa killers one day, Vigo victims the next, can beat Blackburn 2-1 in tomorrow's Sky game - Patrik Berger is the best value to be first goal scorer - but if you want to watch a class game of football, safe in the knowledge you're not making Rupert Murdoch even richer, tune in to Channel 4 where Parma, brilliant at the back - they have conceded only five goals in ten games - but with problems scoring up front (only 11 so far), may be held to a 1-1 draw by the resurgent Milan at home. Milan, for whom the prolific German striker Oliver Bierhoff is always a good bet to score first, have scored 15 goals this term, and the hosts may find it impossible to contain them for 90 minutes.
SATURDAY LIBERO WAGERS
(15 x 50p four-timers with Stanley): Charlton to draw with Everton (12- 5); Chelsea to beat Sheffield Wednesday (1-2); Newcastle to draw with Wimbledon (12-5); Aston Villa to win at Nottingham Forest (11-10); Southampton to beat Derby (6-4); West Ham to draw with Tottenham (12-5).
Leicester v Coventry
First goalscorer/correct score double: Tony Cottee/2-1 to Leicester (50p at 50-1, William Hill).
SUNDAY SKY MATCH
Liverpool v Blackburn
Score: 2-1 (pounds 1 at 15-2, W Hill, Stanley).
First goal: Patrik Berger (pounds 1 at 10-1, William Hill).
SUNDAY C4 ITALIAN JOB
Parma v Milan
Score: 1-1 (pounds 1 at 11-2, William Hill).
First goal: Oliver Bierhoff (pounds 1 at 11-2, Coral and William Hill).
ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.
CURRENT KITTY: pounds 77.52.
TODAY'S BETS: pounds 13.08 (inc pounds 1.08 tax).
SWEEPER'S STABS IN THE DARK
Where in the World?
MANCHESTER UNITED the best in Europe? Not according to the latest European rankings. Despite the evidence of Wednesday's thrilling 3-3 draw in Barcelona, the rankings have United in only 18th place. Filling the top slot are Bayern Munich - the side United must beat next month to qualify for the European Cup quarter-finals.
TOP 20 CLUB RANKINGS
(last week's position in brackets)
11 (1) Bayern Munich 96.48
12 (5) Fiorentina 88.55
13 (2) Marseilles 87.36
14 (8) Bayer Leverkusen 87.29
15 (4) Bordeaux 86.61
16 (3) Roma 84.61
17 (11) Real Mallorca 80.50
18 (7) Parma 79.01
19 (10) Dynamo Bucharest 78.54
10 (18) Milan 78.30
11 (14) Dynamo Kiev 77.68
12 (6) Celta Vigo 77.36
13 (17) Rosenborg Trondheim 76.94
14 (15) Juventus 76.40
15 (16) Partizan Belgrade 75.61
16 (22) Skakhtar Donetsk 74.96
17 (20) TSV 1860 Munich 74.17
18 (9) Manchester United 74.17
19 (12) Aston Villa 73.52
20 (13) Barcelona 73.15
TV presenter on C4's Under the Moon
"I was brought up in Monmouth, South Wales where rugby is everything and football's nothing. It was not until I went to university at Loughborough and started living with this in-your-face Man Utd fan and a girl who was an Arsenal fan that I got into it. The best moment I've had since I started supporting was probably the FA Cup quarter-final against West Ham with Nigel Winterburn running up and down like a lunatic after we won. The bizarre thing is, I'm getting married to a Spurs fan. The corner of the house where the scarves are kept is a depraved place. S & M is nothing compared to this."
Found on the Web: A fine guide to Indian football.
India may be ranked 127th in the world (it's only the 22nd best side in Asia), but this site demonstrates there is no lack of passion for the game in the Sub-Continent. As well as up-to-date reports on full and junior internationals, there are features about the history of Indian football, foreigners in the Goan game - `Goa football fields get a touch of colour from across the globe' even mentions a Scottish coach - and links to club sites and webzines.
Seen But Not Bought
CREWE ALEXANDRA wrapping paper, at pounds 1.50 per sheet, is a better buy than most similar products from other clubs. Not only does a sheet of the red stuff come in handy at the moment for Alex fans wanting to gift-wrap the three points they are giving to each and every side they play, their pounds 1.50 also gets them a gift tag too. This comes in perfect for matches against other clubs at the bottom of the table like Bristol City, Queen's Park Rangers and Oxford United, where the message "See you in the Second Division" can be added as a final touch.
They're Not All Dennis Bergkamp
legionnaires No 15
GUY IPOUA: The 22-year-old Cameroon-born striker started his career at Nancy in France and played for Torino in Italy (on loan), Atletico Madrid in Spain, and then Alicante before making the big step up earlier this year (on a Bosman transfer) to Bristol Rovers. Currently on a one-year contract, Guy (pronounced `Gee') clearly feels minnows like Atletico have something to learn from giants like Rovers. "I just think that, nowadays, with so much competition we have as players, it is important that we travel and see what is happening in other countries. I also think it is important to travel, to get used to different cultures and it has helped me learn different languages. When I was 10 years old, I saw English football on TV and I really liked it and wanted to play here. The clubs I was with in Spain were very big - places like Atletico - but there you were just one of a lot of players and, although Bristol Rovers is a smaller club, you get more individual attention and the training is better." Is a regular in the first team and has scored once this season.
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