Football Diary: Livewire offer on deadline

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ONE audacious transfer bid that failed to go through before Thursday's deadline was a Bristol City offer of pounds 750,000 for Eric Cantona. The volatile Frenchman's career at Old Trafford has been under mass public scrutiny but the League was still 'shocked' when news of the deal was faxed through to them on City's headed notepaper. 'We phoned the club and said, 'hang on is this a hoax',' the League's Chris Hull said. Ashton Gate's secretary thought it probably was but checked with each of the board members 'in case one of them had gone off on a mad spending spree'. Sadly not; Cantona will be at Wembley tomorrow, not Bolton today.

ERIC'S brother, Joel, enjoyed a better week, netting a belter for Stockport's stiffs at Hartlepool. Another Frenchman featured in County's reserves: Luc Arnal, Joel's interpreter and adviser, who told Danny Bergara during negotiations that he had played for Nimes before moving to Manchester University and was there any chance of a County outing? Bergara obliged.

LANCASTER GATE is more associated with stuffed blazers than burning bras but it seems there is an admirable Germaine Greer tendency lurking in the FA's bosom. On a recent match-day visit to Nottingham Forest, the Euro 96 inspection team were surprised when the influential Pat Smith was ushered into the ladies room, away from her male colleagues. 'Clubs have their own customs and practices but it did appear to us a tad archaic,' an HQ spokesperson opined. 'Certainly at the FA we have no divisions along those lines.' Bravo.

THERE were some eye-catching new faces in Big Jack's Green Army at Lansdowne Road. Not the excellent Babb, Kelly and McAteer but six Dublin rugby players and a local barman who filled in for the Republic's unavailable Man U and Villa stars during a World Cup squad photo. The plan is to superimpose Keane and Co's heads before publication - otherwise another Irish barman is off to New York.

THE exceedingly niggly Brazil- Argentina friendly (Bebeto battered, five bookings and a succession of fouls, even with Maradona on the bench) had an amusing postscript. Both teams were on the same plane out of Recife.

CAMBRIDGE UNITED boast a new fan: Carmel Anita Margaret Bridget Rebecca Irene Deirdre Gaynor Evelyn Una Nicky Isobel Terry Erica Davina, whose initials spell out her father's obsession.' I didn't tell my wife,' Steve Gulley said, 'I thought it would be a nice surprise for her.' Ma Gulley's reaction is not known, although Cambridge thoughtfully sent her a bouquet.

THE Americans, ever keen to complicate a simple game, will experiment with some rule changes next year. The first adaptation is modest, involving the slight expansion of goal size, but then it moves into PhD territory. Over to you, Uncle Sam: 'Upon the accumulation of a seventh foul in a half by one team, a shoot-out is awarded to the other team. In the shoot-out, a player begins with the ball 35 metres from the goal and goes in on the goalkeeper with all other players starting 15 metres behind him. If a player accumulates five fouls he will be ejected but may be replaced. If another player on the same team collects five fouls, he will be ejected and cannot be replaced. In some instances, the ejection will be compounded by a shoot-out.' Harvard and Yale will be running courses from next semester.

THE Wild Turkey Bourbon for freak fact of the week goes to Bob Eaton, of Yeovil:, 'Having seen two moderate sluggers pack them in at Millwall, the mind boggles at what might be achieved by these heavies who turned out last Saturday (spelling liberties notwithstanding): 'Herbie' Hyde (Wycombe), 'Ken' Norton (Hull), 'Razor' Ruddock (Liverpool), 'Bonecrusher' Smith (Crewe), 'Jack' Johnson (Ipswich), 'Larry' Holmes (West Ham), 'Lennox' Lewis (Oxford), 'Zora' Foley (Stoke), 'Leon' Spink (Shrewsbury), 'Archie' Moore (Boro), 'Floyd' Patterson (Bolton). Manager? 'Don' King (Tranmere)'.

More bourbon next week. Entries to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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