Football Diary: Life's clean sheet

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FIRST there was An Evening With Gary Lineker, now there's A Night With Neville Southall's Washbag. Drama-lovers, take your pick. The latter production has its roots in the Everton goalmouth in the 1985 FA Cup final with Manchester United. Norman Whiteside's curler around Southall won the day for United and catapulted the eponymous carrier into the air and, now, into the limelight.

The central character is an avid Southall fan and 'the washbag is a metaphor for his own failure in life,' explained a thespian at London's Finborough Theatre. 'It's a magical-realism love story.' A bit like following Everton.

FOLLOWING lunch with the Queen on Wednesday, Graham Taylor should be an expert on defence and keeping an eye on the enemy. According to the court circular columns, the England manager was joined at Buck House by seven other guests, including Stella Rimington, head of MI5, and Sir Christopher France, Permanent Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence. Look out, San Marino.

THE ugly trappings of right-wing extremism proliferating in Italy this season have been a singular cause of embarrassment to Fiorentina, who are redesigning their away strip following the spotting of tiny Swastika-shaped motifs. The Florentine club and Lotto, the kit manufacturers, stress that 'the optical effect' of the Nazi insignia was 'purely a matter of chance' and created by computer.

With Nazi salutes observed on the terraces and Lazio's black Dutchman, Aron Winter, singled out for racist chants and graffiti, players and clubs are now making a stand: Milan's Ruud Gullit and Torino have called for games to be halted whenever such abuse is heard and next weekend all Serie A and B teams will walk out with banners deploring racism.

WHEN questioned about his future following a knee injury, Alan McInally, Bayern Munich's former Scottish international, replied that he might end up playing for Cumbernauld United. Who? For a man who was a hero at Parkhead before departing for Brum and Bavaria, his televised comment seemed mere lighthearted banter. Cumbernauld, after all, are a Scottish junior club who last season finished four points adrift at the foot of the Central Region Reebok League's First Division.

But the non-Leaguers took Sky's Bundesliga expert at his word. They wrote to McInally in Munich saying they were pleased to offer him the No 9 shirt which had been freshly laundered and ironed and was awaiting his arrival. The burly striker is unlikely to be filling it but has sent them a shirt in return - a signed Bayern top.

THE boy who drinks milk because Ian Rush says if he doesn't he will only be good enough for Accrington Stanley, will be watching them in the FA Cup today. Carl Rice, the 12-year-old star of the National Dairy Council's Accrington lampoon, will ensure the non-Leaguers receive a year's supply of milk - 1,400 bottles - if they beat Crewe Alexandra. Since the advert hit our screens, Accrington have received seven requests from sides asking to adopt their name.

THE FA Cup may have the big names, but the FA Sunday Cup has the best names. Jolly Farmers tackle Lobster at Dunkirk FC tomorrow while A3, Napoli, Nicosia and B & A Scaffolding also strive to reach the last 16. Notable victims so far include: Hammer, Cork & Bottle and Rolls Royce.


THE Aberlour Malt for alternative fact goes to Arthur Newsome, of Sunderland, for the following Scottish First Division half-time score spotted on teletext . . .

St Mirren. . . . . .1 Cowdenbeath. . . . .0

Money penalty 44 Lamont off 44

'Norman's in trouble with Money again. If only.'

Both Lamont and Money are custodians. All freak facts and figures to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.