Football Diary: Burning issue of burn-out

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The Independent Online
THE charge of misconduct that the FA has laid at the door of Manchester United and Leeds United for not releasing youth players is 'dotty' according to Britain's leading sports lawyer, who insists that Lancaster Gate should charge itself with misconduct for breach of its own rules. 'Object 3 (2) of the FA's memorandum of association is 'to promote the game . . . and protect it from abuses',' Edward Grayson, the president of the British Association for Sport and Law, said yesterday. 'To protect the game it's vital to prevent young players from burning out. Alex Ferguson, who had a similar problem at Aberdeen, is trying to protect his young players from over-training (while in FA hands) so the FA should charge itself with breach of its own rules because its job is to protect players.

'It's a crucial confrontation between the bureacracy of the FA trying to bring Leeds and Manchester into line because they had the guts to stand up for the protection of the young players,' added Grayson, who has talked to Ferguson and 'told him to stand this dotty charge on its head'. The FA was unwilling to be drawn on the legal angle, stressing that the central argument at the hearing on 31 August would centre around 'what constitutes over-training'.

IT WAS 20 years ago tomorrow that an England manager received one of the oddest offers of assistance ever. An African witch-doctor sent word of his alleged prodigious 'mystical powers' to Sir Alf Ramsey, then preparing to face Poland. 'He claimed he was the leading witch-doctor around,' Ray Spiller, the Association of Football Statisticians' secretary, said. 'He said his mystical powers had helped Uganda to win trophies.' Ramsey was unimpressed, England drew and the failure to qualify for the World Cup finals cost Ramsey his job. With another crucial Polish tie coming up what would Graham Taylor make of a similar call from out of Africa?

AS A business-generating gimmick, Swindon's Marriott Hotel is offering each visiting Premiership side free breakfasts for their goalkeeper. It was meant as a joke by the (Andrew) Marriott men but Oldham Athletic, midweek winners at the County Ground, rang up and said: 'Yes please, and we've got two keepers'. They came, they consumed, they conquered.

EVERTON'S all-consuming desire for silverware was subtly apparent at the shareholders' meeting. Tony Heslop from Liverpool reports that after loading up from Goodison's generous buffet 'the queuing hordes were told that, for extra comfort, once they had got their spread, they could spill over into the trophy room where, our dead-pan MC informed us, there was plenty of room'.

FOR every great polling-day success, many are disappointed. Take When Saturday Comes' 'end of season awards', published this week. Entries for 'Worst Moment of The Season' (won by Manchester United's title success) included 'arriving at Port Vale a day early' and 'it's deep and personal - to do with a girl' while the year's 'Best Moment', for one voter fan, was 'a mate kissing another in the eye while celebrating a goal and sucking out a contact lens'.

LOCK up your dressing-rooms, the Crazy Gang is multiplying. For Wimbledon's popular new membership club, Sam Hammam decided to play on the Crazy Gang name: Selhurst Park is now full of Pranksters (the youngest), Junior Gangsters, Senior Gangsters and Gangster's Molls. For only a fiver, youngsters receive a host of benefits plus 'Mad Sam as president', Reg Davis, the commercial manager, said. Oh, and an Enrolment Pack, complete with the usual 'T-Shirt, badges, autograph book and pen'. A felt-tip?

THE Aberlour Malt for alternative statistic of the week goes to Londoner, Howard Whitten, for the following . . .

'If Fifa hadn't banned Villa's Bosnich, English keepers would have been in a minority for the Premiership's opening round. With Russian, Zimbabwean, Slovak, Norse, Czech, Dutch and Danish imports under our cosmopolitan bars, Chris Woods and Co needed to draw on our Celtic fringe to save the day for a UK majority.

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

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