Football Diary: Banner headline for Owls

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The Independent Online
THERE IS nothing like a bit of one-upmanship, particularly when it's at the champions' expense. Manchester United supporters' overhead aerobics with their huge banner was regarded with much amusement by Wednesdayites' last Saturday. The cause of Yorkshire mirth became apparent when the warm-up man announced: 'Nice flag, United. But this is a real flag' - the cue for Hillsborough's Kop to unfurl a colossal logo-bedecked 'Super Owls' standard, double the size of United's. 'It's the biggest in the UK,' the tormentor added with relish.

THE new regime at White Hart Lane has come across the perfect way to entice back disaffected fans. Knock Arsenal. Printed in the programme for Burnley's midweek visit was a sweet letter from a Spurs fan thanking his Arsenal counterparts for wearing their scarves on railway journeys. 'This enabled me to differentiate them from all the train spotters . . . In a sea of people all in nylon anoraks enveloped in a swirl of dandruff . . . tupperware boxes under arm and thermos flask near to hand, their colours saved me from conversing with the wrong people. I learnt a lot about trains that day.' Cruel.

THE kit colour chaos is spreading: When Stourbridge (red / white stripes) played Evesham United (black / white stripes) in the Beazer Homes League, the Stourbridge captain, John Horne, accidentally put two of his own players in hospital for stitches after rugged challenges in the occasional melees. 'The first half disintegrated into a farce, and we were shouting to the ref to let us change to our yellow away strip,' said Stourbridge's manager, Neil Rioch (Bruce's bro). 'It was only at half-time when we were switching shirts that John told me he was colour blind.'

MARSEILLE are not the only French club in trouble. An official of non-League Sully-sur-Loire narrowly avoided six months' incarceration on Wednesday after admitting injecting valium into the oppo's half-time mineral water.

CRYSTAL PALACE printed a notice in their programme that Dr H Dewji MRCS LRCP was available to treat match-day emergencies. The bulletin concluded: 'Anyone who has cause to be treated by Dr Dewji is advised to consult their own doctor after the match.'

THE TEA PARTY, Stockport County's jaunty fanzine, details pubs near southern grounds to be visited. With a disclaimer. 'We don't accept responsibility for any piss-poor, overpriced southern beer that may be consumed at any hostelry mentioned. Your stupidity is to blame.'

THE 125,000 potential shoppers who form Old Trafford's mailing-list are about to be shown the red card. United are introducing their own credit card, prompting fevered fantasies about spending limits: the KeaneCard has a maximum limit of pounds 3.8m on one purchase, the GiggsCard's limit has been doubled to pounds 6,000 a week (but cannot be converted into foreign currencies), while United's premier piece of plastic, the EuroCard, is limitless in April.

HUNDREDS of Italians have eaten Wembley. It's not a tale from The Sport, but the gospel truth from Parma, where the climax of a recent festival was the consumption of a huge, two- tiered, cantilevered cake shaped like Wembley, venue for Parma's Cup-Winners' Cup win in May.

THE Aberlour Malt for freak fact goes to Gateshead's Alastair Gilmour for this . . .

'As England take on a side managed by Advocaat, perhaps they should send out this British XI: Woods; Worthington, Hennessey, Gill, Gordon, Haigh, Gynn and Lemon, McGuinness, Whyte and Mackay picking up Currie Withe Rice on the way home. They could play under the name of Liverpool (large port), be kitted out in Red Stripes with Bristol Cream shorts and be managed by Kevin Drinkell.'

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