FIVE YEARS AGO: THE whole affair was being conducted under a veil of secrecy but no one at the Reebok Stadium or the Football Association was denying widespread reports that Sam Allardyce had been interviewed for the England manager’s job.

The Bolton boss was known to be on the shortlist of candidates to succeed Sven Goran Eriksson and the FA had already confirmed they had interviewed Charlton manager Alan Curbishley.

Manchester City manager Stuart Pearce, Middlesbrough boss and assistant England coach Steve McLaren and former Leicester and Celtic manager, Martin O’Neill, were also on the shortlist, although the FA were shedding little light on how far they had progressed in their selection process.

On the club front, Allardyce enjoyed a Premier League victory over West Ham, although he was somewhat less pleased with the behaviour of his young defender, Tal Ben Haim.

The Israeli international felt he was the injured party but he got no symptahy in the Reebok dressing room after a public bust-up with Jay-Jay Okocha.

The normally placid Nigerian blew his top with Ben Haim during the second half of the 4-1 beating of West Ham, grabbing him by the throat and pushing him in an angry exchange.

Ben Haim was also reprimanded by Wanderers skipper, Kevin Nolan, before walking into a full-blooded rebuke from his manager.

The incident happened midway through the second half with Wanderers leading 3-0. Ben Haim, who had an otherwise impressive game, played his way skilfully out of defence then gave the ball away, putting his fellow defenders in trouble.

As Okocha chastised him, the row erupted into an ugly exchange, earning both players a ticking off from referee Mike Dean.

“Tal should have a little more respect for a senior player when he goes over to him, but he does tend to get a little mouthy at times,” Allardyce said.

“What he did at first was fantastic but he has to show more care with the ball and he didn’t. That’s why the other players were having a go at him.

“He must accept the criticism he gets as well as the praise but I don’t think he quite took to the lads telling him how silly he was – and that’s what he was.”

Stelios scored two with Gary Speed and Hendrik Pedersen also on target as Wanderers stepped up their bid for Champions League qualification.

England’s cricketers crashed to a miserable nine-wicket defeat to India in the second Test at Mohali.

Ian Bell and Andrew Flintoff made half centuries in England’s second innings but a total of 181 left India needing just 144 for victory, which turned out to be a comfortable ask with opener Virender Sehwag coasting to an unbeaten 76.

25 YEARS AGO: FRANK Worthington, the one-time idol of the Bolton fans, got a knockout reception on his return to Burnden Park.

On the terraces they gave their former favourite – now player-manager of Tranmere Rovers – a hero’s reception, but on the field it was a different story as modern-day goal-getters George Oghani and Tony Caldwell sealed a 2-1 win that put Phil Neal’s Wanderers into the Northern semi-finals of the Freight Rover Trophy.

Worthington, whose return helped boost the gate to just under 4,000, disappointed many of his fans when he left himself out of the starting line-up. But the cheers went up as he joined the action for the last 23 minutes to try to rescue the tie.

And he almost managed it with a superbly-executed glancing header giving Ian Muir a chance which he thumped against the post.

Wanderers, who had been labouring in the lower reaches of Division Three, were enjoying something of a revival and had taken considerable heart from having beaten runaway leaders Reading 2-0 at Burnden the previous weekend.

Caldwell and Warren Joyce got the goals that put some valuable breathing space between Wanderers and the relegation pack, although Joyce was one of a number of players rumoured to be on the hit-list – Sam Allardyce and Simon Rudge were the others – as Neal looked to overhaul his squad before the transfer deadline.

Meanwhile, Neal was doing his utmost to prevent his central defender, Mark Came, being given a hefty sentence from the FA after amassing 41 disciplinary points.

Ahead of a hearing in Manchester, the Bolton boss said Came’s record gave a distorted impression of his playing style, which was neither violent nor cynical.

“He’s just not like that,” Neal said. “He hasn’t injured anyone and no one has really suffered from any of the tackles he’s been involved in.”

Bury’s scoring sensation, Craig Madden, went into the game at Wigan looking for the 150th goal of his Gigg Lane career, but the night ended in frustration.

The Shakers, who included Lee Dixon at full-back, lost 1-0 – their fifth successive defeat – that left them second-bottom of Division Three.

Manchester United manager, Ron Atkinson, spent £570,000 to sign Nottingham Forest striker Peter Davenport.

Davenport’s arrival at Old Trafford came as Atkinson’s first signing, full-back John Gidman, appeared to be heading back to his former club Aston Villa while reserve centre-back, Billy Garton, was loaned out to Birmingham.

The future of Des Drummond, Leigh’s Great Britain winger, was in the balance after he was axed from the Hilton Park team after missing training sessions.

50 YEARS AGO: HENRY Cooper, the British and Empire heavyweight champion, wasted no time in issuing a challenge to world champion Floyd Patterson after the American successfully defended his title when he beat Sweden’s Ingemar Johansson.

Patterson knocked out Johansson with a crunching right hand in the sixth round of their fight in Miami, which was described as “one of the most thrilling title bouts in history”.

The punch was reported to be worth “several million dollars” to the 26-year-old, Brooklyn-born Patterson, who recovered after being knocked down twice in the first round.

Within hours of the triumph, Cooper’s people moved to get to the front of the queue to challenge Patterson. His manager, Jim Wicks, said: “We are very confident that Cooper will beat Joe Erskine in the British and Empire title fight on March 21 and then we will go all out for a match with Patterson.

“I don’t care where the fight is, although we would prefer it to be in London. Cooper wants to meet Patterson because he is convinced he can beat him.” Dougie Holden and Ernie Phythian got the goals as Bolton Wanderers twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at Fulham in the First Division.

The football was not up to much but it would have taken two considerably more talented teams to have entertained the spectators on a Craven Cottage pitch which was described as a “farm field”.

Former British Lions’ stand-off Bev Risman silenced the critics who questioned his ability to make the grade in rugby league with a classy, unforgettable debut in Leigh’s 28-5 win over Liverpool City at Hilton Park.

Risman, who instantly struck up an effective partnership with scrum-half Brian Brooks, had a hand in three of Leigh’s tries.