Football: Bleak Christmas for Barnet

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The Independent Online
IF THERE was one set of supporters who deserved an even break from the Boxing Day fixture list it was Barnet's, after the trials and tribulations of the past few weeks.

But having already been thrown up away to Scarborough by the Barclays League computer, local police have informed the home club that the game must be brought forward to 11am. Appropriately enough the cause was a local fair, the Ladies' Day Procession.

Bees fans may be tearing their barnets out at having to set off from London at 6am to make kick-off. The manager, Barry Fry, was certainly fuming.

'It's a nightmare. It's our supporters I feel sorry for,' Fry said. 'They had to start out at seven anyway. It is ridiculous, last year we had to go Crewe, which was bad enough.' Barnet's players will begin the trek to north Yorkshire at 4pm on Christmas Day.

Once upon a time Boxing Day was derby day in the football calendar, and only Irishmen played for the Republic of Ireland.

Now Graham Taylor could be following Jack Charlton's example, trawling through grandparents' birth certificates to dig out new talent for England.

The Republic of Ireland for some time has gone back two generations to establish eligibility, while the four British countries have stopped at parents or place of birth. Now Northern Ireland has decided to combat cross-border raids on its talent by spreading its net wider, and England could soon follow.

FIFA, the world governing body, allows a country to adopt the qualification rules used by its government for passport purposes, but accepts Britain is a special case.

West Bromwich Albion yesterday disassociated themselves from an apology made by West Midlands police to the Coventry City manager, Bobby Gould, after he was banned recently from The Hawthorns, where he had been due to work for BSkyB.

The club went to some lengths to make clear it had suggested Gould should not attend, for fear of attacks by Albion fans bitter over his brief and unsuccessful tenure there.

While West Brom may not miss Gould, Milan will regret the absence of Marco Van Basten. The Dutchman, named European Footballer of the Year on Sunday, is likely to be out for three months after an operation on his ankle.

A one-year-old boy was killed by a stray bullet, 100 people were wounded and 139 arrested in violent scenes as fans in Buenos Aires fired guns to celebrate Boca Juniors' championship victory.

Real crisis; Christmas books;

Roeder in the doldrums, page 26