A new CD will prove that football and pop really can mix - maybe, says Tony Naylor
The news that Gazza's "untutored" croon is so bad that it won't be taking centre stage on the new Rangers single, Nine In A Row, came as sweet relief to music fans. Most had only just recovered from his previous hit, Fog On The Tyne. If only the sick minds behind Hoddle and Waddle's Diamond Lights or Liverpool's Anfield Rap had had such scruples.

Pop history is littered with football-pop abominations. But a new generation of players are adamant that the two can mix. When clubbing magazine Mixmag flippantly dubbed Southampton's David Hughes a "showbiz DJ" in a recent issue, his letter of complaint brimmed with righteous indignation. QPR's Daniele Dichio, a respected garage DJ, who for two years has co-promoted and played at Covent Garden's Players Lounge, and Nottingham Forest's Paul McGregor, lead singer with guitar band Merc, are the stars of the squad. While David James (Liverpool), Trevor Sinclair (QPR) and several others flirt with the Technics.

A planned CD, Pitch Control, from Dichio and reputed hard house wizard James might struggle for a fair hearing in the dance press. "I couldn't give a toss what the press think," says Dichio. "If they like it, they like it." Avex Record's A&R Richard Ford is similarly unconcerned: "If the music was bad we'd get slated. Unless it's top quality, there's no point in putting it out."

Dichio seems too fond of London's underground garage scene to exploit the obvious marketing opportunities. Earlier this year, he recorded tracks with Crystal Palace's Bruce Dyer for the tiny, hip, Ice Cream label. "I don't want it to be commercialised. I want to see how it goes out without my name behind it."

Charlie Chester, club promoter, QPR fan and friend, adds: "People put his name on flyers and put Daniele Dichio (QPR). I've told him keep away from that. If he's DJ-ing, he's DJ-ing in his own right."

Andy Copping, Merc's manager, is equally cautious: "I didn't want a record company to take Merc because they had a good-looking footballer in the group. Push it. One-hit wonder. Dead and buried. And they could have done that quite easily."

McGregor adds: "I think it would be a brave record company who'd sign us because we'd have to sign around my football." This not only means no gigs on match days but no gigs in Derby, home of Forest's bitter enemies. But there are the perks, such as Forest fanatic and Manic Street Preacher James Bradfield offering to produce Merc's demos.

McGregor is convinced that he can pursue both careers. But Andy Lowe, editor of Forest fanzine Tricky Trees, is not so sure. The young fans may love Merc but the older ones don't understand, especially when rumours circulated last season - which McGregor denies - that an injury was the result of dropping an amplifier on his foot. "He's probably going to have to decide which he wants to do," says Lowe. "If they get signed by someone, like Creation, I wouldn't have thought he'd be able to carry on playing."

Now, that's the sort of dilemma I could cope with.