Football Diary: Startling start for stopper

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TODAY'S Sheffield derby could not have come at a better time for Andy Pearce, whose season has changed beyond recognition. When the blond stopper played before his old Coventry fans in November, they taunted his new Wednesday employers with: 'You daft b******s; you've signed Andy Pearce'. Clearly they didn't rate him. 'Since then we've been really trying to get behind him,' Matt Cooper, of Owls' fanzine War Of The Monster Trucks (The Voice Of Waddle Fundamentalism), said. It worked. Increasingly mature performances from a player bobbing along in non-League backwaters three years ago were capped at Nottingham Forest in midweek, Wednesday fans saluting Pearce's second goal in successive games with the Andy Cole-Boney M number:

'Andy Pearce; Andy Pearce;

Aaaaaandy Pearce.

He gets the ball; and scores a goal;

Aaaaaandy Pearce'.

CARLTON PALMER and Paul Gascoigne are chalk and cheese when it comes to midfield styles but they deserve their own show after forming a dream comedy double act in Graham Taylor - The Impossible Job (C4, Monday 9pm). At an England training camp Gascoigne, pretending to be consumed by nerves, walks up to Palmer, who assumes the manager's mantle. Gazza: 'Hello, boss, are you playing us?' Palmer: 'I think you've had too many Mars Bars this week.' Gazza: 'Oh no, please let me play, boss.' Palmer: 'You're lucky to be here, son. You've got good feet but you've got a f****d-up knee, a f****d up brain and a f****d-up belly.'

THE art of abuse, Toon Army style (v QPR). Step one, berate the oppo's fans: 'You couldn't sell all your tickets'. Step two, berate the whole team: 'There's only one Stockport County'. Step three, berate individual players (Rangers' tyro goalkeeper, Tony Roberts): 'Dodgy Keeper, Dodgy Keeper'. This mantra lasts the second half interspersed with: 'There's only one dodgy keeper', 'Dodgy, Dodgy give us a wave', and, finally, 'Dodgy, Dodgy, what's the score?'

AT THE XIII International Conference on Physics in Collision in Heidelberg, Germany, one distinguished speaker gave his views on 'proton and neutron structure function measurements from fixed-target experiments'. He paid particular attention to 'results on unpolarized structure functions' which had 'stablilised for x Demonstration Team - a sort of quadruped Red Arrows - to steal a ball off a group of startled Saints. They thought briefly of winning it back until the lab sunk his teeth into it.

THE decline of English Football, Part 784: Howard Wilkinson pointed out recently that one cause of poor control among young players is that kids' kickabouts are on the wane. Sonic the Hedgehog is only partly to blame. A teenaged Midlander is being prosecuted in Tamworth under a council by-law for playing football in the road. He appeared before magistrates this week charged with 'playing football in a street in such a manner as to cause obstruction to traffic or annoyance or danger to any person (sic)'. He has been bailed until 7 February.

THE bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon for freak fact of the week goes to John Graupner, of Pucklechurch, for this:

'The England team who eventually beat the might of San Marino last November (Seaman; Dixon, Pallister, Walker, Pearce, Platt, Ince, Ripley, Ferdinand, Wright, Sinton) have not managed to score a goal in domestic competition in 1994.'

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