Charles' date with royalty : FOOTBALL DIARY

You need a sense of humour to work with the Republic of Ireland team. Life can be full of surprises - and it goes way beyond discovering a granny from Cork lurking in the ancestry of an unlikely "Irish" player. Maurice Setters, No 2 to Jack Charlton, was left a message by his boss telling him he would have to look after preparations Monday and Tuesday for the midweek friendly against England. King Jack, it seems, will be otherwise engaged having dinner with Prince Charles.

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People not turning up where they are expected is not that unusual in Ireland apparently. Last week Cork City, whose waterlogged ground has caused them to fall behind with their fixtures, were ordered to play their "home" match against Bohemians at Cobh, but they did not think much of the idea of losing ground advantage. The Dublin club duly made the trip for the match, changed and went out on to the pitch for the kick-in. There was no sign of Cork, though, and after waiting in vain for them to turn up, the referee called the game off.

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A true romantic? Tough luck. You're too late for the big Valentine's night out. The trip to Craven Cottage for a four-course meal, wine, access to a lounge and a pair of seats in an executive box to watch Fulham play Northampton in the Third Division is sold out. It's all a question of knowing your market, I suppose.

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Positively the last word on those Philosophy Football T-shirts. Eric Cantona's outburst has not cost him a place in their line-up but it has forced a rethink on the quote. Gone is all that romantic tosh about the ball responding to his caresses "like a woman with the man she loves." Now the shirt bears his explanation of the fire within him sometimes being harmful. Pity really, the old one might have gone down well at Craven Cottage on Tuesday.

PS. The article in Philosophy Now was by Andrew Belsey, not as my fat fingers had him last week.

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Do football managers need to be thick-skinned? Rather than keeping a low profile the day after his team suffered a 6-0 FA Cup defeat at Southampton, Luton's David Pleat faced the cameras in a menswear shop. The place? Watford - Luton's arch-rivals.

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The departure of Terry Howard from Leyton Orient in such unhappy circumstances is reminiscent of a spectacular exit an international player made of his own volition in the early Eighties. The Romanian striker Marcel Raducanu, then an international, was substituted during a match in Germany and kept walking, pausing only to collect his clothes. He turned up in a "safe house" in Dortmund and then had a long wait for international clearance to resume his career in the Bundesliga.

*** Christophe Robert, one of the key figures in the Marseille bribery scandal, has finally found himself a club. Ferrio Carril Oeste, of Argentina, have offered Robert, now 30, a short-term contract. He was one of three Valenciennes players accused of taking a bribe to throw a match against Marseille in May 1993. He denied accepting the money, but was suspended by the French federation and has not played since.

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Brentford fans have gone in for that awful old habit of making a record, but at least the efforts of Robb Johnson and the Gentlemen of the Terraces have a worthwhile side to them. Proceeds from "Saturday Afternoon Red Army", which is available from the Bees club shop and also comes with a karaoke mix, go to the club's Football In The Community programme.

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Mickey Thomas, once of Manchester United and Wales and now manager of the Konica League's Porthmadog, is still playing. He was man of the match in a cup tie last Sunday for West Shore Arabs.

So much for the Theatre of Dreams, you obviously spend enough time in the stagy version. From another large cast of entries, this week's Wild Turkey Bourbon for a Dramatic XI goes to Peter Casey, of Liverpool, for:

DRAMATIC XI: Commedia dell Grobbelaarte; The Merchant of VENISON, Sir Donald de WOLFitt, The BOULD Vic, JuNO LANd the Paycock; LorD OLLivier, An INCEpector Calls, Paul GasCORNEILLE, Aaron Winter's Tale; BerLINEKER Ensemble, The Two Noble KLINSMANN.

Next week: A Romantic XI. Entries to: Team Spirit, Football Diary, The Independent, 1 Canada Wharf, London E14 5DL

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