By Dermot Clarke
Amid names like Cole, Yorke, Shearer, Fowler, Owen, Suker, Bergkamp and Zola, to name but a few, a young man who was stacking factory shelves a couple of years back emerges as the hottest striker in the Premiership. His name? Kevin Phillips. The man, who came from non-League Baldock town, took his tally to eight goals in eight games when he knocked in a hat trick against Derby County at Pride Park on Saturday.
Phillips’s performance could see him don the England shirt in the friendly game next month against Belgium. A game due to be played in familiar surrounds for the young star: Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.
Niall Quinn and Gavin McCann scored the other two in a 5-0 victory that took the Geordies temporarily into fourth place in the table.
Alan Shearer must have read the Sunday papers and thought, "I’m not allowing this, I’m the 15 million man in Geordieland." Shearer’s Newcastle scored their first League win of the season in fairly emphatic style, when they whipped Sheffield Wednesday 8-0, with Shearing scoring five.
Michael Owen came back with a bang with two goals against Leicester. They weren’t enough, however, as the dismal Reds allowed a 10-man Leicester team back into a game that should have been wrapped up on several occasions. A late equalizer from Muzzy Izzet gave Leicester a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw. The Foxes other goal came from the boot of Tony Cottee after just 81 seconds after a terrible blunder by Dominic Matteo allowed Izzet to set him free on goal.
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Cruyff saves United
A goal from Jordi Cruyff saved Manchester United from an embarrassing defeat by Wimbledon at Old Trafford. Jordi came on for Ryan Giggs, who departed with hamstring trouble after 27 minutes to add to United’s ever-growing casualty list. Isr’l’s Walid Badir (where do Wimbledon find these people gave the Dons the lead when he paid Carl Cort’s classy play the perfect compliment by slotting home his low cross after 16 minutes.
Now Jordi’s not half the player his old man (Johan) was, but he dealt with Paul Schole’s through ball, after 74 minutes exactly as Daddy would have, by rounding the ‘keeper before coolly slotting home. The sting of Gigg’s injury was well and truly softened by the news that Roy Keane would likely take the field against Sturm Graz.
Watford on roll
Watford gained another fine scalp when they beat high-flying Chelsea 1-0 at Vicarage Road. Allan Smart scored the winner here. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United couldn’t manage a goal between them in the Champion’s league in midweek when they each tied at nil with Milan, Fiorentina and Croatia Zagreb, respectively. Arsenal’s result being by far the most impressive as it was gained away from home and it appears that they were the least affected by Euro lag as they were the lone domestic winners of the three at the weekend. Theirry Henry scored the late winner at Southampton.
Spurs continued their impressive run with a 3-2 victory over Coventry. Steffan Iversen, Chris Armstrong and Oyvind Leonhardsen had put Spurs three up before a typical piece of Robbie Keane magic sparked a mini-comeback. Keane twisted Chris Perry inside-out before slotting home and the White Hart Lane faithful had to endure a small scare period when Youssef Chippo made it 3-2, but Spurs held on. George Graham must be wondering why he didn’t go the extra and sign Keane when he had the chance though.
Another impressive younster, Francis Jeffers of Everton, inflicted a first defeat of the season on Harry Redknapp’s West Ham. The Hammers also looked tired after their UEFA cup exploits even though they did have an extra day’s rest.
A Dion Dublin goal moved Aston Villa into third place. Scrappy though it was, it must have given great relief to John Gregory as it came at a time when it was beginning to look like the stubborn visitors, Bradford, might steal a point.
Man. City prevail
Manchester City look like they could be headed back to their rightful place among the elite of the Premiership. The 1-0 away win at Walsall was enough to put them top of the division as Trevor Francis’s Birmingham traveled to Ipswich to knock them from the top with a lone goal victory also. Fulham are right up there two after a 1-0 victory in the London derby against Queens Park Rangers. It seems, though, that Stan Collymore has done little to endear himself to the Craven Cottage faithful. Fulham fanline set up a phone-in vote on whether the troubled striker should stay at Fulham. According to a Fanline spokesman, only 10 people bothered to even call. "We normally get up to a thousand calls for votes like this, but it seems Fulham fans just don’t care about Stan Collymore" was the view of Ken Myers.
The home scene
Nothing much to report from Scotland, where the Old Firm game was postponed, but at home Shamrock Rovers went to the top of the table on their own with a 3-1 victory away to Bohemians. It’s probably wrong to call a Rovers game in Dublin an "away" game, as they’ve called virtually every ground in the city home, at some stage, since the closure of Glenmalure Park. However, it is the team that they faced on Sunday that are known as "The Gypsies" and were these two top and bottom of the table, the bitter rivalry would ensure an exciting encounter. As it was before Sunday, though, the league positions of both ensured that the winners would top the table. The Hoops fell behind to a Glen Crowe header after 32 minutes, but stand-ins Rovers striker Richie Purdy equalized on 35 and put his side ahead on 54 minutes with a neat turn and shot. Eighteen-year-old Shane Robinson wrapped it up in the 79th minute.
Shelbourne moved into second spot after another epic encounter with Cork City. Goals from Baker Fenlon and Geoghegan won the day as Morley and Caulfield’s replies weren’t enough in cork’s 3-2 defeat. Surprise of the day was probably Drogheda United’s 2-0 victory over Derry City.
And, finally, Brian Clough has aired his views on Bobby Robson’s decision to take over at Newcastle.
"Listen, I’m old and I know it. But I’m thankful I’m not old and senile. Because if I was senile I might have been daft enough to do what Bobby has done." Clough did say this before the Sheffield Wednesday game, it has to be said.