FOOTBALL DIARY: Sir Stan regains the ball

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Goalkeepers who do a disappearing act are nothing new, but Guido Van de Kamp's case is strange indeed. Seven months ago, the Dutch goalkeeper gained a Scottish Cup winner's medal with Dundee United against Rangers. Though he is only 30, and free o f injury, the final proved to be his last match.

Van de Kamp promptly fell into a bitter dispute over terms with the club, particularly the chairman and former manager, Jim McLean, and returned to the Netherlands to await developments. Then, just before Christmas, United agreed to sell him to St Johnstone, managed by a former McLean player, Paul Sturrock.

Upon making contact after the holiday, however, Van de Kamp discovered that the Perth club had inexplicably pulled out of the £100,000 deal. He has now successfully reapplied for the jobs that he resigned in banking and bar work, and Hampden is beginningto look more and more like his swansong.

*** It took two floods to put paid to Shrewsbury Town's game against Plymouth Argyle today: the one that left Gay Meadow under two feet of water, and the referee Alan Flood, from Stockport, who was called in to declare the pitch unplayable. Tough task, Alan.

*** Life is not a bundle of laughs at the moment for Maurizio Gaudino, Manchester City's on-loan German international midfield player, who has been questioned about illicit car exports from Germany, fell out with his club Eintracht Frankfurt and has struggled to adjust to the pace of the Premiership. I don't suppose he saw the funny side when, during City's match at Newcastle, the Tannoy blared out a report of a Mercedes being stolen from outside St James' Park.

There was a time when anyone who dispossessed Sir Stanley Matthews might have been tempted to do a lap of honour or ask for a pay rise. But the thief who took the ball off the Wizard of Dribble - his statue in the Potteries town of Hanley, that is - was so ashamed that he abandoned his haul in a phone-box.

The message in a Christmas card attached to the bronze sphere read: "To Sir Stan - Hope this makes your Xmas. Sorry. It was a drunken prank." Council engineers hope to stick the ball back by 1 February, the first knight of Stokelore's 80th birthday. Stoke City and Port Vale are rumoured to have offered trials to the culprit on the basis that he must be a useful full-back.

*** So Otto didn't seem to know which way he was playing and scored at both ends in his debut for Birmingham City against Cambridge United on Boxing Day. What else should we expect of Ricky the Palindrome?

*** Allegations of match-fixing have spread to Chile, where a prominent businessman, Orlando Saenz, has cast doubt on this year's national championship. He claimed in a letter to the Chilean federation there was a plot to favour Universidad de Chile, theeve ntual champions, at the expense of Universidad Catolica, who finished runners-up by one point. He says he overheard an unnamed person outlining a scheme involving "corrupting referees, changing dates of games and suspending key members of opposing teams"

. Guess who Saenz supports.

A thumbs up from you for the XIs for now, but thanks for ideas that will have a fighting chance later. As for the Fighting XI, the temporary loss of seasonal spirit gains Skanda Vaitilingham, of Taunton, the Wild Turkey for: Fighting XI: Able Bodied SEAMAN; General (Dean) GORDON, (Robert) BOWMAN, General (Robert) E LEE, (Kevin) SHARP shooter; Sergeant (Dwight) YORKE, Desert (Ruel) FOX, Admiral (Mark) BLAKE, General Mark (Lee) CLARK; Field (Ian) MARSHALL, BOERE War.

Next week: A Cricket XI. Entries to: Football Diary, Sports Desk, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.