Neil Warnock has tested positive for COVID-19, Middlesbrough have confirmed.

The Championship club released a brief statement on Thursday saying their veteran manager will spend a period of time in isolation in line with United Kingdom government guidelines.

"Neil is in good spirits and we look forward to welcoming him back after his period in isolation," the statement added.

Warnock took over at the Riverside Stadium in June and four wins from eight matches preserved their Championship status.

The 71-year-old committed to staying on for the 2020-21 campaign and Boro's Championship season started with a 1-0 defeat to Watford last Friday.

Norwich City and Middlesbrough are among the teams selected to welcome back a limited number of fans this week as the EFL continues its pilot programme.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, crowds had not been allowed at professional matches across Britain since football returned in June until Cambridge United were able to facilitate spectators last week.

With fans returning to games in France and certain regions of Germany, the EFL has now confirmed an extension of its scheme, with 10 fixtures initially selected for the coming weekend, although Luton Town have opted out.

Following government guidance, crowds will be capped at a 1,000 capacity with social distancing measures in place. Talks are ongoing over the possibility of higher attendances being allowed after October 1.

Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium will be able to house fans for their game against Bournemouth, while Norwich City versus Preston North End is the only other Championship match with spectators in attendance after Luton, who host Derby County, informed the EFL they would not be involved.

In League One, Charlton Athletic, Blackpool, Shrewsbury Town and Hull City have all been given the green light to host fans.

Forest Green Rovers, Carlisle United and Morecambe are the League Two teams selected, following in the footsteps of Cambridge, Morecambe's visitors.

"It's encouraging that we are in a position to move forward with the next phase of the pilot programme and give a small number of our clubs the opportunity to welcome back up to a 1,000 fans this week," said EFL chairman Rick Parry.

"The health and well-being of supporters and their wider communities remains the priority, but as we showed at Cambridge, social distancing can be applied safely.

"By extending across more EFL clubs, we hope to further demonstrate that the measures developed can allow fans to return in greater numbers from as early as next month."

Bournemouth will start life back in the Championship at home to Blackburn Rovers, while Watford host Middlesbrough and Norwich City travel to Huddersfield Town.

The Cherries were relegated after a five-year stay in the Premier League, while Watford and Norwich were also demoted in a top-flight campaign that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

That halt means the new Championship season starts on September 12, with beaten play-off finalists Brentford travelling to Birmingham City on the opening day, while south Wales rivals Cardiff City and Swansea City – who also made the top six – host Sheffield Wednesday and visit Preston North End respectively.

Wycombe Wanderers – playing in the second tier for the first time – welcome fellow new boys Rotherham United for their first game, while Coventry City's return to the Championship starts with a trip to Bristol City.

Derby County and Barnsley start at home against Reading and Luton Town, with Stoke City and Nottingham Forest heading to London to face Millwall and QPR.

Bournemouth host Norwich in the third round of matches, the same weekend Watford renew acquaintances with fierce rivals Luton. Watford and the Canaries face off at Vicarage Road on December 26.

The three relegated teams will hope to be in the promotion hunt come the final day on May 8, with Bournemouth and Watford at home to Stoke and Swansea, while Norwich go to Barnsley.

Neil Warnock will attempt to guide Middlesbrough back into the Premier League after the veteran manager committed to leading the former UEFA Cup runners-up next season.

The 71-year-old replaced former Real Madrid and Leeds United defender Jonathan Woodgate at the Middlesbrough helm in June and four wins in eight games ensured they avoided relegation from the Championship.

He had previously been appointed only on a short-term basis but will stay on for the new campaign, Middlesbrough announced on Tuesday.

Warnock, who has achieved eight promotions in his managerial career, is planning an overhaul of his squad before the 2020-21 season begins on the second weekend in September.

He said: "It won't be easy, we need quite a large influx of players and I'll be doing my best over the next few weeks to get the right ones."

Warnock is eyeing a promotion quest next term, rather than another scrap near the foot of the Championship table.

He told Middlesbrough's website: "It's been hard work, make no mistake. But this is a great club and I'd like to take it towards the other end of the table.

"I must have retired about five times now, but there's always something that's brought me back, a challenge, helping somebody out, and this is a similar situation."

Middlesbrough, who lost to Sevilla in the 2006 UEFA Cup final, last competed in the Premier League in the 2016-17 season. In the three years since their relegation, they have finished fifth, seventh and 17th in the second tier.

West Brom clinched the second automatic promotion place in the Championship on a dramatic final day of the season as Wigan Athletic's spirited survival bid failed.

After both West Brom and Brentford were beaten at the weekend, the Baggies only needed to match the third-placed side's result to seal a return to the Premier League after two seasons away in England's second tier.

A seemingly straightforward home fixture against QPR did not go entirely to plan for West Brom, but a 2-2 draw took them up as Brentford went down 2-1 to Barnsley on Wednesday.

That result saw Barnsley stay up, but Wigan could not join them as they drew 1-1 with Fulham – who could have been promoted with a win – and went down due to a looming 12-point deduction.

Charlton Athletic and Hull City were also demoted, while there was a similarly chaotic finish in the play-off race.

BAGGIES BEST BRENTFORD

Both West Brom and Brentford lost their nerve with two matches of the campaign remaining, but a return of just a single point from a pair of games proved enough for Slaven Bilic's team.

Following Friday's defeat to Huddersfield Town, West Brom were boosted by Brentford's own reverse at Stoke City yet could not beat QPR.

West Brom trailed to Ryan Manning's strike before turning the match on its head with goals either side of half-time through Grady Diangana and Callum Robinson, only for Eberechi Eze to equalise just past the hour-mark.

It mattered not, though, as Brentford failed to capitalise, instead losing again.

Josh Dasilva cancelled out Callum Styles' Barnsley opener, but as Brentford pushed for a precious winner, Clarke Oduor tapped in at the other end in the 91st minute.

BRAVE BARNSLEY, WIGAN WOE

There were contrasting scenes at full-time in the final regular league match at Griffin Park after Barnsley celebrated as Brentford collapsed.

The visitors were heading down until Oduor struck but stayed up at Charlton's expense, the Addicks going down 4-0 at champions Leeds United.

Hull propped up the table after a 3-0 defeat at Cardiff City, while Luton Town stayed up thanks to a rallying 3-2 success at home to Blackburn Rovers, aided by two own goals.

Wigan needed to win due to their deduction following administration, but one of the form teams in the division let a lead slip against Fulham, their total of 59 points bumped down to 47 to fall a painful point short.

 

It isn't just a game of football, it's absolutely everything to our players, staff and supporters.

Hold your heads high!#wafc pic.twitter.com/5oTj7eV4jV

— Wigan Athletic (@LaticsOfficial) July 22, 2020
SWANS SAVOUR GOAL SWING

With rivals Cardiff comfortable in claiming their play-off place, Swansea City needed to beat 10-man Reading while Nottingham Forest lost to Stoke City, along with a five-goal swing.

Improbably, the Swans stole sixth place from Forest after a remarkable finale.

The Welsh side won 4-1, netting their fourth in the 91st minute as Wayne Routledge headed in his second.

That scoreline left Forest – 3-1 down at home to Stoke at the time – needing to score, but instead they conceded, their promotion bid derailing in spectacular fashion as Nuno da Costa stabbed into his own net in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

The 4-1 defeat meant Forest – without a win since July 1 – finished seventh.

Elsewhere, there were wins for Derby County, Millwall and Middlesbrough, bringing the curtain down on another season in gripping fashion.

Fulham remain in the hunt for second place in the Championship after downing Sheffield Wednesday 5-3 on Saturday.

With Brentford having lost 1-0 at Stoke City earlier, thereby crowning Leeds United champions, Fulham responded to move within a point of the top two thanks to two goals from Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Cardiff City swept aside Middlesbrough to keep their play-off ambitions in their own hands, with Preston and Millwall now unable to finish in the top six.

At the other end of the table, Stoke's victory sealed their survival, while Kazenga LuaLua struck a huge late blow for Luton Town at Hull City and Charlton Athletic snatched an important point.

FULHAM POUNCE AS BRENTFORD FALTER

Lee Gregory's first-half finish from close range gave Stoke a 1-0 win over Brentford at the bet365 Stadium that ensured their Championship survival and denied the visitors the chance to go second.

Fulham are now just a point behind Brentford in the table after beating Wednesday 5-3 and, with West Brom only two above them, the Cottagers will be ready to capitalise on any slip-ups on the final day.

Mitrovic and Neeskens Kebano scored twice at Craven Cottage before Bobby Reid's late fifth, with Jacob Murphy and Atdhe Nuhiu (2) on target for Wednesday, who cannot yet consider themselves safe given the risk of a possible EFL points deduction.

 

BONNE CHANCE FOR LUTON AND CHARLTON

In Saturday's relegation showdown between Hull and Luton, it was the visitors who left the KCOM Stadium feeling hopeful of survival after LuaLua fired home the winner in the 85th minute.

Luton are now on 48 points, level with Charlton, who were trailing 2-1 to Wigan Athletic until Macauley Bonne equalised on exactly 92 minutes.

Hull are three points behind and, given they are 16 goals worse off than Charlton, they look destined for League One barring possible points penalties for either Wednesday or Wigan. Bottom-club Barnsley, with two games left, can still stay up.

CARDIFF WIN ENDS PRESTON, MILLWALL HOPES

Two goals from Josh Murphy helped Cardiff to a 3-1 win at Middlesbrough, whose survival could now depend on getting a result on Wednesday, at Wednesday.

Cardiff stay sixth, three points ahead of Swansea City, whose 1-0 win over Bristol City keeps their play-off hopes alive ahead of the final day.

Preston cannot now make the top six, despite beating Birmingham City 2-0 - another side who are not yet guaranteed to avoid the drop - while Millwall are also out of play-off contention following Cardiff's win and their own thrilling 4-3 defeat at QPR.

That was not the day's only seven-goal game: at Ewood Park, Sam Gallagher's 87th-minute header gave Blackburn Rovers a 4-3 win over Reading that lifted them into the top 10.

Wigan Athletic humiliated Hull City 8-0 as the Championship relegation battle took an extraordinary twist - while West Brom might be wobbling near the top.

Kieran Dowell hit a hat-trick for Wigan, who remarkably led Hull 7-0 at half-time. Wigan sit in mid-table but are fighting for survival in the second tier because of an administration penalty hanging over the club, and this result was a huge step towards safety.

West Brom have looked on track for automatic promotion for weeks, but a slip in form from Slaven Bilic's men could see Brentford pip them at the post.

Second-placed West Brom could only draw 0-0 at home against fourth-placed Fulham, meaning Brentford can close to within a point of the Baggies with two rounds of games remaining should they beat Preston North End on Wednesday.

WONDER AT WIGAN

Wigan were the talk of English football after their first-half seven-goal show.

The only saving grace for Hull, and frustration for Wigan, was that no supporters were present to witness one of the most eye-catching results in English football all season.

Wigan savagely picked apart the free-falling Tigers and climbed to 13th place in the division.

They became the first team to score seven or more goals in one half of a match in either the Premier League or the three tiers of the EFL since Watford came from 2-0 down to beat Blackpool 7-2 with a second-half flurry in January 2015.

Aside from Dowell's treble, Kieffer Moore netted twice and there were goals for Kal Naismith, who set the ball rolling in the first minute, Jamal Lowe and Joe Williams.

Wigan stand to receive a 12-point punishment for entering administration, a troubling development that followed a recent takeover of the club, but they are fighting to avoid that meaning relegation.

The win neatly moved them 12 points clear of Hull, who sit 22nd and are a point adrift of safety, with the Tigers having a suddenly vastly inferior goal difference to Wigan.

BAGGIES BLOWING IT?

West Brom and Leeds have been trading first place in the Championship, but there could be a surprise in the promotion shake-up.

By failing to find a way through Fulham's defence, West Brom's hold on second place has become increasingly tenuous, given fast-finishing Brentford are on a seven-game winning streak.

Fulham's Anthony Knockaert hit the bar in the second half at the Hawthorns, where the outcome could have been even worse for West Brom.

Cardiff City kept a grip on sixth place as goals from Junior Hoilett and Lee Tomlin earned a 2-1 home win over Derby County.

Just outside the play-offs, Millwall sit seventh after a 1-0 home win over Blackburn Rovers, Mason Bennett with the only goal.

WARNOCK DELIVERS

Ashley Fletcher and Patrick Roberts scored for Middlesbrough in a 2-1 win at Reading that carried Neil Warnock's side five points clear of the bottom three.

Liam Moore had put the hosts ahead before Boro, who appointed veteran manager Warnock as Jonathan Woodgate's replacement last month, turned it around.

Among those worse off than Boro, Huddersfield Town picked up a useful point in a 0-0 draw at Sheffield Wednesday, while second-bottom Luton Town were held 1-1 at home by QPR.

West Brom went top of the Championship on Wednesday, while Wigan Athletic and Middlesbrough gained key wins at the other end of the table.

The Baggies moved above Leeds United, and went five points clear of third-placed Brentford, with a 2-0 victory over Derby County, who saw their play-off hopes dented by the loss.

Grady Diangana and Dara O'Shea scored in either half for West Brom before Rams youngster Louie Sibley was harshly sent off in stoppage time for violent conduct.

Derby slipped below Swansea City, who went up to seventh courtesy of a 3-1 win at Birmingham City, with Liverpool loanee Rhian Brewster taking his tally to eight goals in 16 Championship games.

Middlesbrough won for the second time in four games since Neil Warnock was appointed as manager, Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher on target in a 2-0 success at Millwall.

Wigan, who could yet incur a 12-point penalty having gone into administration last week, climbed eight points away clear of danger for now thanks to Kieffer Moore's first-half strike in a 1-0 victory over QPR.

Elsewhere, Bristol City beat Hull City - who are in the relegation zone - 2-1 and Preston North End came from behind to defeat Sheffield Wednesday 3-1.

West Brom boosted their bid for automatic promotion as relegation-threatened Hull City and Middlesbrough both lost in Sunday's Championship action.

After table-topping Leeds United and in-form Brentford both won 24 hours earlier, the Baggies followed suit as they eventually overcame Hull 4-2 in an eventful encounter at the Hawthorns.

Twice West Brom took the lead only to concede, Mallik Wilks making it 2-2 early in the second half. However, Kamil Grosicki crucially edged the hosts back in front just over a minute later.

Grady Diangana wrapped up victory for Slaven Bilic's side, though they finished the game down to 10 men following the late dismissal of Ahmed Hegazi. Still, West Brom are once again a point behind Leeds, while they are five clear of third-place Brentford.

Hull remain outside the bottom three as fellow strugglers Middlesbrough were beaten at home, going down 1-0 to QPR.

Jordan Hugill grabbed the only goal of the contest just after the half-hour mark against a club where he spent the 2018-19 season on loan.

Meanwhile, Swansea City moved up to eighth – four points adrift of the final play-off berth occupied by rivals Cardiff City – courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday.

Rhian Brewster, who is on loan from Liverpool, opened the scoring and Andre Ayew doubled the Swans' lead from the penalty spot. Atdhe Nuhiu did half the deficit, though his stoppage-time effort was no more than a consolation for the Owls.

Mallik Wilks snatched a precious stoppage-time winner as Hull City beat fellow strugglers Middlesbrough 2-1 to climb out of Championship relegation zone.

The Tigers started Thursday's crunch clash at the KC Stadium on a 13-match winless streak in the league and they fell behind after only four minutes, when Britt Assombalonga was on target from the penalty spot.

Boro beat beleaguered Stoke City in Neil Warnock's first game in charge on Saturday, but they were pegged back by Herbie Kane's fine free-kick just eight minutes in.

Neither side looked capable of winning it until Wilks, who signed a permanent deal on the morning of the game, pounced from close range in the closing stages.

Hull's first league win since New Year's Day moves them up to 19th, two points clear of a Stoke side that drop into the bottom three, while Boro are just one point above the relegation zone with six games to play.

Leeds United took a huge step towards promotion to the Premier League with a 3-0 victory over Fulham at Elland Road.

After West Brom lost at Brentford on Friday, Leeds' impressive win saw them bounce back from last week's defeat to Cardiff City and move top of the Championship.

There were also wins for Charlton Athletic, Cardiff, Luton Town, Derby County, Middlesbrough and Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

Birmingham City and Hull City shared a dramatic 3-3 draw, while there were no goals in the match between Barnsley and Millwall.

 

LEEDS CLOSING IN ON TOP FLIGHT

The 2-0 away defeat to Cardiff in the first match after lockdown was a concern, but even the most pessimistic Leeds fans must concede things are looking good now.

With seven games to go, Leeds are three points clear of West Brom and have opened up an eight-point cushion over third-placed Brentford.

The win over Fulham also dealt a hammer blow to their opponents' chances of automatic promotion - they are now 10 points off the top in fourth.

Patrick Bamford slotted in a cool left-footed finish from Helder Costa's cross after 10 minutes.

Leeds made sure of the points after the break when Ezgjan Alioski was set up by Jack Harrison, who went on to score the third after racing onto a Pablo Hernandez throughball.

Neeskens Kebano was sent off for Fulham in stoppage time, while key striker Aleksandar Mitrovic may face retrospective action after an apparent elbow on Ben White went unpunished in the early stages.

KEY WIN FOR CARDIFF

Cardiff continued their momentum with a potentially pivotal win over Preston North End, one of their main rivals for a play-off place.

The Welsh side moved above Preston into sixth place courtesy of a 3-1 away triumph given to them by late goals from Nathaniel Mendez-Laing and Robert Glatzel.

All four goals were scored in the last 21 minutes, with Joe Ralls' header putting Cardiff ahead before Daniel Johnson equalised.

Derby are only three points off the top six after Tom Lawrence's fine strike and a Wayne Rooney penalty earned a 2-1 home win over Reading, whose goal was scored by Andy Rinomhota.

Lawrence and Reading's Matt Miazga both received red cards for a clash just after the final whistle.

WINNING START FOR WARNOCK

Middlesbrough won 2-0 at Stoke City to give Neil Warnock an ideal start after his appointment as manager.

Ashley Fletcher and Marcus Tavernier scored in each half, while Stoke's Nick Powell was sent off a minute from time.

Huddersfield Town, who face fifth-placed Nottingham Forest on Sunday, dropped into the bottom three without playing.

Middlesbrough have sacked Jonathan Woodgate and replaced him as head coach with Neil Warnock.

Woodgate was dismissed early on Tuesday, with former Cardiff City boss Warnock taking charge with immediate effect.

"The club would like to place on record its thanks to Jonathan for all his work in the role of head coach," the club confirmed via a brief statement.

Boro are 21st in the Championship table with just eight matches remaining and only above the relegation zone on goal difference.

They lost 3-0 at home to Swansea City last Saturday in their first match since the coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of the season in March.

Woodgate, who finished his playing career at the Riverside Stadium, was only appointed head coach last June.

Warnock left Cardiff last November, having taken the Bluebirds to the Premier League in 2018 but failed to prevent them being relegated back to the second tier last season.

The 71-year-old's first match in charge will be away to Stoke City on Saturday.

West Brom nudged ahead of Leeds United at the top of the Championship but a 0-0 draw with Birmingham City appeared to be a blow to the title hopes of Slaven Bilic's team.

Yet the top two in England's second tier look increasingly likely to be the pair promoted to the Premier League, with third-placed Fulham suffering a damaging home defeat against Brentford.

In the first matches following the league's three-month coronavirus suspension, a new hero emerged for mid-table Derby County as 18-year-old Louie Sibley scored a hat-trick in their win at Millwall.

And Rhian Brewster, a striker on loan from Liverpool, gave Swansea City's play-off hopes a boost by netting twice at Middlesbrough, as well as making a powerful political statement.

POINT A MIXED BLESSING FOR BAGGIES

With Leeds in action at Cardiff City on Sunday, West Brom had an opportunity to go two points clear of Marcelo Bielsa's team as the league resumed.

Bilic's players dominated the derby clash and had a host of chances but could not find a breakthrough, and a stalemate at the Hawthorns potentially plays into the hands of Leeds.

The top two are now level on points, with West Brom top on goal difference, but Leeds will have the chance to go three clear before the next round of games.

BEES STING NEIGHBOURS

Said Benrahma and Emiliano Marcondes scored late for Brentford in a 2-0 win at promotion rivals Fulham, a result that leaves West Brom and Leeds seven points clear with eight games remaining for the play-off pack.

Nottingham Forest were heading for victory at Sheffield Wednesday after Joe Lolley gave the visitors a 69th-minute lead, only for Connor Wickham to grab a stoppage-time leveller for the Owls.

Forest sit fifth, four points clear of a Preston North End side who were held 1-1 at Luton Town, Callum McManaman firing a late equaliser for the hosts, who nevertheless fell to the foot of the table.

KING LOUIE

Blackburn Rovers beat Bristol City 3-1 in a battle between teams fighting with Preston for sixth place, but the individual performance of the day came from Sibley, whose heroics guided Derby to their 3-2 win at Millwall.

"I'm absolutely buzzing," Sibley told Rams TV. "To get that hat-trick was just unbelievable. When the third goal went in, I couldn't stop smiling."

Brewster was not far behind, his double steering Swansea to a 3-0 victory at lowly Middlesbrough.

Brewster held up a shirt that read "our colour is not a crime" after his first goal, expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

TIGERS ON THE SLIDE

Wigan Athletic were 2-0 winners at fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town, while Hull City slipped into the bottom three after losing 1-0 at home against Charlton Athletic.

Barnsley climbed off the bottom by winning 1-0 at QPR, and Stoke City drew 1-1 at Reading.

Adama Traore has been linked with a move to Liverpool but his former manager Tony Pulis thinks he should "settle down" at Wolves and aim for the Spain squad.

Barcelona youth product Traore has enjoyed a fantastic 2019-20 at Wolves, where he has scored four goals and supplied seven assists in the Premier League while playing primarily as a wing-back under Nuno Espirito Santo.

The 24-year-old, with whom Pulis retains a good relationship following their time together at Middlesbrough, is reportedly wanted by league leaders Liverpool, plus Manchester City and Manchester United.

Former Stoke City boss Pulis believes Traore should be looking to lay down roots at Molineux and focus on breaking into the Spain set-up ahead of Euro 2020, which will be held next year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pulis told Stats Perform News: "I think Adama always had the ability to play. The big thing was his confidence. I think I probably caught him at the right time. He had gone and worked for a few managers who weren't enamoured enough to play him on a regular basis.

"I obviously knew him as a West Brom manager watching [Aston] Villa, watched him in the reserves a few times. His pace and balance was just extraordinary.

"Going to Middlesbrough, he wasn't in the team when I got there but I wanted to make him a focal point of the team. We did that and the biggest thing with him is that he grew in confidence and he started to believe in himself.

"I made him my best friend. He used to come in and make me a cup of coffee after lunch and we would sit down and watch videos. He became a friend and he knew he'd be first pick on the team sheet. And the team understood what we could get from him and what we couldn't. Having said that, as the season progressed, he learned the other side of the game [defensive] well as well.

"You meet people in life who are really, really good people, and Adama is a really good person. You hope and pray those people get everything out of life that they possibly can.

"He's gone to Wolves - we didn't want to get rid of him at Middlesbrough, but the only problem was the finances… He went to the right club, stepped up and has murdered it.

"I think he can only get better. His temperament and personality is first class. His next step, I speak to him now and then, his next step is to get a place in the Spanish side.

"I'll be quite content for him, and I said this to him, to settle down. He seems happy at Wolves. He's playing under a manager that's confident with him and gives the respect Adama needs.

"But Adama's big challenge is seeing if he can get a place in the Spanish team and keep it."

During his time at the Riverside, Pulis did not enjoy the same sort of relationship with striker Martin Braithwaite, whom he is surprised to see now playing at LaLiga champions Barcelona.

"He was completely different to Adama in personality. Different traits as a player. I never thought Braithwaite wanted to be at Middlesbrough although he signed a contract," said Pulis.

"He spent more time telling me that he wanted to leave than be at the club. In the end I hope and pray that the club got a good price for him because they paid a lot for him. They certainly paid him an enormous amount of money wages-wise, it was just extraordinary.

"Am I surprised he's gone to Barcelona? Yes. Is he playing every week? I don't know. Is he going to play every week? I don't know. Was he my cup of tea? Adama was. Braithwaite wasn't."

There are some days in English football history that stand out as turning points.

On May 31, 1995 – a full 25 years ago – Chelsea agreed a deal to sign Ruud Gullit from Sampdoria. And the face of the game changed.

The fledgling Premier League had experienced a sprinkling of overseas talent already, with Eric Cantona making a staggering impact at Leeds United and Manchester United, and Jurgen Klinsmann coming off a season-long cameo at Tottenham.

Superstar Gullit's arrival at Stamford Bridge was the cue for a transfer-market melee, a spectacular flurry of deals that still take the breath away.

To this day, a host of players recruited in the wake of Gullit's arrival, many imported from overseas, are revered in the top bracket of talent that graced their clubs and the Premier League.

Dennis Bergkamp came to Arsenal with a lofty reputation. But David Ginola, Juninho and Georgi Kinkladze joined Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Manchester City as near-unknowns in England, destined to join the pantheon of club greats.

Euro 96 was on the horizon, lads and ladettes were supping Hooch and bathing in a summer of Britpop battles, and there was feverish optimism about the state of the nation.

Here is a look at the biggest deals of that heady few months.

RUUD GULLIT ​– SAMPDORIA TO CHELSEA

A world star, who was arguably the finest player on the planet at his peak, Gullit may not have been at the height of his career by the time he arrived in London on a free transfer, but there was no disguising the 32-year-old's star quality.

He rivalled Klinsmann as the most famous arrival since the Premier League launched in 1992, and was arguably in a higher bracket.

British television audiences had watched Gullit every week on Channel Four's popular Football Italia shows, firstly with Milan and then Sampdoria, and Chelsea manager Glenn Hoddle was smitten.

Hoddle reportedly made two trips to Italy to meet Gullit before the stunning deal went through, and the Netherlands maverick was recruited to feature as a sweeper in the new high-culture Chelsea side.

"I am very fit and by playing sweeper I can control the speed of the game," said Gullit, quoted in the Independent the following day. "If you have possession of the ball you don't have to run around chasing after it."

The sweeper experiment was soon abandoned, however, Gullit moving into a better-suited midfield role where he proved predictably majestic, going on to succeed Hoddle as Chelsea manager in 1996.

DENNIS BERGKAMP ​– INTER TO ARSENAL (and David Platt – Sampdoria to Arsenal)

Bergkamp was a real eye-catcher, joining for a then British record fee of £7.5million, albeit with question marks over his suitability for the Gunners, particularly after a rocky season at Inter.

Platt had been captain of England, and was a guaranteed solid midfield presence, but new Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch appreciated he was perhaps getting something special when Bergkamp became the first signing of his reign.

That overwhelmingly proved to be the case, and although Rioch only lasted one full season at Highbury, he could always point to his nurturing of Bergkamp as being instrumental in shaping Arsenal's future.

The non-flying Dutchman played 423 games for the Gunners, scoring 120 goals and winning a hatful of medals. Today, a bronze statue of Bergkamp stands outside Arsenal's Emirates Stadium home.

DAVID GINOLA ​– PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN TO NEWCASTLE (and Les Ferdinand – QPR to Newcastle)

Newcastle had surprisingly allowed Andy Cole to join Manchester United for £7m in January 1995, but Kevin Keegan's team went from strength to strength nonetheless.

The £2.5m arrival of Ginola proved a masterstroke, the French winger magnificent on the left wing while Keith Gillespie, a makeweight in the Cole deal, dazzled on the right.

Ferdinand was the ideal targetman and proved to be another exceptional buy, but Ginola was the fans' favourite, his trickery, pace and personality lighting up the league.

Newcastle were almost champions, Ginola at the heart of some of the most cavalier football of the decade.

GEORGI KINKLADZE ​– DINAMO TBILISI TO MANCHESTER CITY

City fans are accustomed to success nowadays, brought to them by a foreign legion featuring the likes of Pep Guardiola, Sheikh Mansour, Sergio Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany.

But there will always be a special place for Kinkladze in the hearts of City fans who saw him play in the Maine Road era, when Franny Lee was chairman and Uwe Rosler the star imported striker.

City were relegated from the Premier League in Kinkladze's first season, and he left in 1998 after a second relegation into the third tier, but the Georgian was a bright spark in dark times, his dribbling skills and free-kick ability never to be forgotten. A particularly memorable solo strike came against Southampton, a lasting gift.

STAN COLLYMORE ​– NOTTINGHAM FOREST TO LIVERPOOL

The British transfer record was broken twice in June 1995, firstly with Arsenal's swoop for Bergkamp and then when Liverpool paid £8.5m for Nottingham Forest striker Collymore.

He and Robbie Fowler formed an often menacing partnership, particularly in Collymore's first season at Anfield, but the big-money recruit lasted just two seasons with Liverpool in the 'Spice Boys' era before moving to Aston Villa for £7m.

PAUL INCE ​– MANCHESTER UNITED TO INTER

Pipped to the 1994-95 Premier League title by Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United cleared the decks and allowed star men Ince, Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis to leave Old Trafford.

It was a stunning gamble by Alex Ferguson, with Hughes and Kanchelskis joining Premier League rivals Chelsea and Everton respectively, while midfield general Ince floated off to Italy with Inter for £7.5m.

But Ferguson knew his Class of 92 youngsters were pushing for a chance at first-team level, and with the likes of David Beckham, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt emerging, the old guard were barely missed, United going on to win a league and cup double.

JUNINHO ​– SAO PAULO TO MIDDLESBROUGH

This £4.75m move went through slightly later in the year, in October 1995, back when clubs could strike autumn deals.

Bryan Robson would bring in Fabrizio Ravanelli in the following close-season, but none of the Middlesbrough manager's signings are remembered quite so fondly as Juninho.

The little Brazilian was a marvel of an attacker, a low centre of gravity helping him to ride the wildest of tackles from defenders who could not handle his dribbling ability.

On Teesside, they adored the Brazilian, who began brightly enough but truly dazzled in his second season, helping Boro to reach both the FA Cup and League Cup finals.

They lost both and suffered the pain of relegation. Juninho left too, but returned for two later spells with the club that loved him best of all, winning the 2004 League Cup.

...MEANWHILE, NORTH OF THE BORDER

PAUL GASCOIGNE ​– LAZIO TO RANGERS

Chelsea had reportedly wanted Gascoigne to join Gullit in west London, but it was Scottish champions Rangers who prised the England international from Lazio, a massive coup for the Ibrox club.

'Gazza' was adored on the blue side of Glasgow and scored a raft of dazzling goals as Rangers won their eighth and ninth successive league titles.

Forgiveness even came quickly after his stunning strike past club-mate Andy Goram for England against Scotland at Euro 96.

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