Football Diary: Getting back to the roots

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The Independent Online
NOT since Jo Jo left his home in Tucson, Arizona, has California grass been so under the spotlight. The weed in question, the turf for the 1994 World Cup finals no less, is currently being nurtured by scientists in the Golden State before its transportment this spring to Detroit's indoor arena, the Pontiac Silverdome.

So whatever happens to England in qualifying Graham Taylor's side are guaranteed to play on genuine World Cup soil; on Thursday came confirmation that England meet Germany in the Silverdome during the US Cup in June, a tournament which also features the hosts and Brazil and is being used as a dress rehearsal for 1994.

The Pontiac pitch (groundsman's note: Kentucky Bluegrass comprises 85 per cent poa pratensis and 15 per cent lolium perenne, laid out in hexagonal metal frames, according to Fifa) will then be preserved at the nearby Michigan State University until the Big Kick-off a year later. The California grass may see more action in the US Cup if a rock star relinquishes a provisional booking of the Pontiac. Who else but the co-composer of the California grass classic - Paul McCartney.

THE gesticulating jubilating of Ian Wright on scoring has prompted much debate this season but now Arsenal fans have sprung to the defence of their top attacker. The Gunners marksman is not simply a goalscorer; he is, in fact, a matador. According to the Barcelona correspondent of the Gooners' fanzine, 'One-Nil Down Two-One Up', the Spanish, who receive regular televised English matches, have nicknamed Wright 'El Matador' because Senor Satchmo's slow-mo arm movements in the wake of a goal echo those made at bullfights following the kill. What would the Spanish make of Steve Bull scoring?

THE Six-0-Six show has had more hosts than Wogan and today sees the debut behind the mike of David Mellor, erstwhile Minister of Fun. The keen Chelsea supporter will be rushing from Stamford Bridge after the Manchester City match to present the Six-Toe-Six slot. Even if he arrives at 5.30, 36 minutes before broadcast, one show member admitted, 'it will still be a half hour earlier than Danny (Baker)'. Given Mellor's high profile, Radio 5 expect the odd crank to call over the next six weeks and even slip through their screening net, but admit that can only add to the entertainment. Besides, Chelsea fans can usually look after themselves.

GOLDEN milestones are en vogue. Ally McCoist's prolific partnership with Mark Hateley climbed to 50 goals for the season on Tuesday (not bad with four months to go), taking Rangers to their 30th game without defeat. The Ibrox side are still some way behind Milan who tomorrow will stretch their unbeaten Italian League run to 50 (the final fixture of 90-91, 34 last season, and 14 so far this term) if they avoid losing to mid- table Cagliari at the San Siro.

TALKING of unbeaten runs, Ian Hanner, a doctor from south-east London, overheard the following from a Charlton Athletic fan after their tough draw with West Ham United at The Valley, their last home game of 1992: 'Well at least we haven't lost at home for over seven years'.

THE bottle of Aberlour Malt for alternative fact of the week goes to John McPartlin, of Ayr, for this cross-Channel cocktail . . .

'On 1 January 1993 the top divisions in France and England were both headed by unfashionable provincial sides which have the following in common:

1) Their names begin with the letter 'N';

2) They play in yellow and lime strips;

3) They are both nicknamed 'The Canaries'.

Their names are, of course, Norwich and Nantes (joint top).'

All freak facts and figures to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB or by fax to 071-956-1894.