Football Diary: Arresting joys of meat pies

WHEN the West Midlands police disbanded their serious crime squad, did they transfer the officers to football crowd control? The region generates a deal of criticism from those travelling fans who report for the National Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs third annual survey. Complainants claim to have been ejected from Villa Park for such things as eating a pie in public and standing up to go to the toilet. By contrast, though, Portsmouth fans visiting Oxford United were grateful for being escorted into a covered area to shelter them from a sudden downpour. A case of the police being struck by enlightenment during a storm.

Such inconsistency is a problem. Travelling fans can encounter vast differences in policing methods, according to Cyril Wood, the federation's Travel and Crowd Control Officer. 'We need a better nationally co-ordinated system of working,' he said. 'Because of the different methods used by police, fans don't know what is expected of them.' Stay away seems to be the message in some areas.

AT LAST it can be told - the story of Simon Stainrod's England 'career'. The widely travelled striker, now in charge at Ayr United, got as far as the bench against Brazil in Rio 10 years ago and, the way he tells it, seemed set to enter the fray when Bobby Robson clasped his arm, saying: 'We need a goal.' Yet before Stainrod could rise, the manager barked: 'Get warmed up . . . Sammy Lee.' John Barnes scored his wonder goal and Lee stayed put. As for Stainrod, he knew his number was up when Robson kept calling him 'Steve'.

THE wasteful striker's cry of 'I was put off by a bobble' will no longer carry much weight when playing against the Faroe Islands. Their goalkeeper, Jens Martin Knudsen, has hung up his hat. The international minnow's new coach, the former Danish international, Allan Simonsen, has said that 'Faroese football shall not be held up to ridicule.' But it could be something to do with Norwich police hunting a bobble-hatted man seen riding away on a bicycle with two huge wooden didgeridoos after a raid on a music shop.

AS club vs country tussles go, Oldbury United against England looks like no contest. But Stuart Lampitt, the Worcestershire all-rounder, will join the Midland Alliance minnows next month provided he is not needed for the England A tour to India. On stand-by, Lampitt is favourite for the call if Craig White drops out of the Ashes squad and an A party member, such as Dominic Cork, is promoted. Oldbury - nicknamed The Cricketts - await a decision eagerly.

CATHERINE BELL has not missed a Bury home game for five years, so last Saturday she curtailed her celebrations to dash off in her wedding dress to Gigg Lane, with disbelieving new husband Mark McDonald in tow. She arrived in time to hear the whistle blow on the Shakers' 2-0 win over Scunthorpe. Catherine's devotion was rewarded with an invitation to the directors' lounge.

READING may be known as the Royals but it is Middlesbrough who have royal approval to gain promotion. The First Division club is giving new strips to the princes, William and Henry, after hearing that Wills' is a Boro fan. It'll be Heirsome Park next.

Talking of royalty, the number of Socialists XIs sent in suggests the political opinion polls may be right for once. The choice of Martin Jacques (once of Marxism Today but now elsewhere) as sub in an XI of Spurs players almost swung it, but the winner of the Wild Turkey Bourbon is Sam Bedford, of Hereford, for:

SOCIALISTS XI: National Union of SEAMAN; Pol POTTS, The COOPERerative Society, MAY Day, TROTT (Northampton); Working KLAS Ingesson, Jamie RedKNAPP, DALEY Worker; KERR Hardy, MARSHALL Tito, RUSHian. Substitutes: BARBER (Luton) Meinhoff Group, DANNY (The Red) Wallace, Tolpuddle MARTYNs.

Next week: A Milliners XI. Entries to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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