Football: SIDELINES

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Ball's walk-on part in tale of two cities

THE EX-FILES

ONE name would be guaranteed to unite the rival factions when Stoke City meet Manchester City in a potentially explosive relegation battle at a sold-out Britannia Stadium tomorrow. Alan Ball took both clubs down, so the irony will be dark indeed if he now keeps Portsmouth up at their expense.

The two Citys have had some three dozen players in common down the decades. Stoke certainly enjoyed the better of Peter Dobing, pipe-smoking captain of their League Cup-winning team of 1972, and of Mike Sheron, the pounds 2.5m striker who is embroiled in the survival struggle with QPR. Adrian Heath, Peter Beagrie, Wayne Biggins and Nigel Gleghorn also made a greater impact at the Victoria Ground.

Stoke has traditionally been a stopping-off point for the Blues' surplus stock. David Brightwell, Wayne Clarke, Joe Corrigan and Harry Dowd all went to the Potters on loan; Jason Beckford, John Gidman and Dennis Tueart made the same move on free transfers, and Ian Scott for pounds 175,000. Sammy McIlroy, widely touted to be Stoke's next manager, was one of the few to reverse the trend.

Others who figure in the shared history include Tony Henry, Barry Siddall, Dave Watson, Howard Kendall and Paul Stewart. Oh, and an England colleague of Ball's who, in 16 years at Maine Road, won all the major domestic honours and then gave Alan Durban, Stoke's current caretaker manager, three stalwart seasons for pounds 50,000. How both sides could use Mike Doyle's indomitable spirit tomorrow.

Ten things that Palace's

Swede Tomas

Brolin

might be missing

today

1 His hometown, Hudiksvall. Nicknamed 'Glada Hudik' (lively Hudiksvall) by 19th century timber barons.

2 Lillfjarden - an idyllic lake in Hudiksvall. Said to be perfect for a leisurely stroll, a pace even Brolin can still muster.

3 Hudiksvall's buildings. "Old and new, in harmonious juxtaposition," says the tourist literature. Nothing like the future management structure at Selhurst Park then.

4 An aura of Abba.

5 Seal safaris in the Hudiksvall archipelago.

6 Kottbullar och makaroner - meatballs and pasta, a favourite.

7 Halsingehambon. A regional folk dance contest, where participants are bussed around villages and dance in big circles.

8 Falcon beer. Like the Eagles, it goes down well.

9 The Speeders. A Shadows tribute band from Hudiksvall.

10 Viking artefacts, including cutlery carved from trees. (But Brolin at least has the Premiership's wooden spoon to remind him of home).

NAME OF THE GAME

No 33: NEWCASTLE UNITED

For 10 years until 1892 the pride of Tyneside were known as Newcastle East End. The name was adopted in response to the formation of another club in the city, Newcastle West End, who moved to St James' Park in 1886. When West End went out of existence, East End were invited to move into St James' Park. Following the move the club voted in 1892 to change its name to Newcastle United.

THIS

WEEK

ON 5 May 1951, all eyes turned to the bottom of the First Division where the two sides to be relegated were still to be decided.

One newspaper wrote: "Chelsea, Everton and Sheffield Wednesday are genuinely admired even outside the districts in which they play and failure, whoever it hits, will be regretted by many people besides the local supporters.

"This morning the position is that Chelsea (home to Bolton) and Sheffield Wednesday (home to Everton) have 30 points, and Everton have 32.

"The tangle will almost certainly be complicated tonight by goal average, as both Chelsea and Wednesday can be expected to win - a probability which would make all three level on points.

"At present Chelsea have the advantage in this respect. Yet if Wednesday win 6-0 and Chelsea win 1-0, then Wednesday can avoid the drop."

As it transpired, Wednesday did manage to win 6-0, "in a brilliant, pulsating affair ... their victory was due to superb football." Unfortunately for them, Chelsea won 4-0, meaning Wednesday's triumph was in vain.

Wednesday were relegated and Chelsea escaped. Everton went down, a feat not repeated since. (Yet).

HISTORY

LESSON

As Doncaster Rovers prepare for their last Nationwide League game today they might be heartened by the experiences of previous clubs which dropped into the GM Vauxhall Conference.

Although Newport County went out of business the season after their exit from the League, four of the five other clubs to have been relegated have bounced back. Hereford United, who dropped out last year, are the only other club not to have done so.

Lincoln City (relegated in 1987) and Darlington (1989) both returned to the League at the first attempt. Colchester United (1990) took two years to win back their place, while Halifax Town (1993) have spent five years out of the League. However, they will return next season after winning this season's Conference championship.

With the exception of Maidstone United, who went out of existence not long after winning promotion, the teams who have come up from the Conference have generally fared well in their new environment.

Darlington, Barnet and Wycombe Wanderers all went on to further promotions - although the first two are now back in the Third Division - as have Macclesfield Town following their step up from the Conference last year.

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