Football Diary

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Bruce's extended family

GEORDIEMANIA, part 8,549. The visit of Manchester United to Newcastle United today has not gone unnoticed by the locals: St James' received nearly 20,000 applications for the 2,500 tickets available. Every avenue has been explored. 'I have suddenly got more family and friends this week than I ever knew of,' Steve Bruce, Manchester United's Tyneside-born centre-half, said.

The Toon Army, which plans a particularly enthusiastic reception this afternoon for the England target, Kevin Keegan, now dispatches up to 3,000 foot soldiers to every training session in Durham. The

obsession (honoured in a Carling Award yesterday) grips all rungs from the bestial - the Viz comic hero, Sid the Sexist, is currently sporting a Newcastle shirt with SMUTT on the back - to the celestial: the head nun at a local primary school has taught all her charges Magpie hymns including a specially written one called the 'Gallowgate Roar'. All this and Sunderland in disarray.

LOCK UP your corner flags, Roger Milla, the Indomitable

Lions' jelly-hipped king, is threatening the most remarkable of comebacks. Cameroon are turning to the veterans of Italia 90 to add some much needed expertise to their troubled World Cup squad. Contenders include Milla, who will be 43 come kick-off, Tataw, Mbou, Pagal, and Omam Biyick. Claudio Caniggia, if you make the States, bring your shinpads.

A SMALL village in Motherwell is spectacularly West Ham crazy. Part of Newmains' 40-strong WHU Supporters Club were at Upton Park on Wednesday night, feeding their Hammer hunger which forces them to travel thousands of miles a season. When a new housing development was mooted for the Lanarkshire hinterland, it could have only one name: Upton Park. Road names

included: Bonds Drive, Brooking Way and, an estate agent's dream, Boleyn Court. No sign as yet of Breacker's Yard, Holmes Homes, Peyton's Place, Burrows Den, or, the still to be drained and developed Mike Marsh.

NORWICH CITY'S splendid support in the San Siro not only helped restore some of England's prestige on the Continent but they also suggested a solution for the the national team's woes. 'Walker for England' screamed one

Canary banner. Logical, but what would this do to their own club's fortunes? It was clearly a joke:

underneath was written 'Hansan (sic) for Norwich'.

ON THE very day that the local

colliery, Silverdale, shut its gates for good, so signalling the end of mining in North Staffordshire after more than 150 years, Port Vale's programme for the FA Cup tie with Huddersfield carried the logo of a merrily burning fire and the line: 'Tonight's Sponsors - British Coal'.

HIGH WINDS caused the postponement of Chelsea-Wimbledon in midweek; the referee rightly cited safety reasons. Plus a fear of a high balls disappearing down the Fulham Road? One Blues supporter, turning away from Stamford Bridge, was overheard to murmur: 'At least we didn't lose.'

LEEDS UNITED are on the way up. Literally. When Brian Deane tucked away the winner against Manchester City, a jubilant Noel Whelan leapt on the tall striker's back; Rod Wallace then jumped on Whelan's back, so creating a 10-foot forward (with six feet).

THE bottle of Aberlour Malt for

alternative statistic of the week goes to John Sheldon, of Belper, Derbyshire, for the following . . .

'Last Saturday's League and Cup games provided a football team's worth of Mcs: McClair (Manchester United), McGrath (og for QPR), McCarthy (York City), McDonough (Colchester United), McGinlay (Celtic), McGivern (Ayr United), McKenna (og for Airdrie), McNeill (Brechin City), McPhee (Forfar Athletic), McLeod (Meadowbank Thistle), McCormick (Alloa Athletic).

More malt next week. All freak facts to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.