Football Diary: Talking up a storm

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IT IS an essential element of the England manager's job to spend most of the time talking - everything from tactics to excuses. Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor were both keen communicators so the current succession stakes can be partly judged on a candidate's verbosity. A glance at the recently published Umbro Book Of Football Quotations (Stanley Paul, pounds 8.99), a diverting anthology of the profound and the profane, reveals that Ron Atkinson is favourite with a job-winning 31 entries, ahead of Howard Wilkinson (25), Jack Charlton (10) and Kevin Keegan (nine). Should the FA decide to pick a man who makes and inspires a myriad comments, the new England manager will be . . . Paul Gascoigne, with a runaway 81 entries.

POSH BY NAME, classy by nature, Peterborough's players have a distinct sense of humour. Take Ian Bennett's responses to the 'Profile' inquisition. The 23-year-old keeper was quickly into his stride, announcing that his nickname was 'Most Saleable Asset' and that the team he supported as a boy was not Liverpool, Manchester United or even his current employers but Hodthorpe Working Men's Club. Bennett was not finished. His 'Most Memorable Match' proved to be 'the one that burnt my car out', the 'Biggest Disappointment' his 'wage slip' and his favourite ground was 'good to firm at Ascot'. Bennett's answer to 'Who Would You Most Like To Meet' was far removed from the traditional Madonna, Meg Ryan or Mother Theresa - 'The chairman in a dark alley'.

LINING UP ALONG with Taylor's potential replacements outside Lancaster Gate are hopeful suitors to the FA Cup, which may be sold to offset the post-Rotterdam financial loss. The early money is on Sega, the modular moguls of the games world whose banners have occasionally swamped Wembley. But the brash boys who embody the modern age may not be considered.

'We would want a sponsor that reflected the integrity and traditions of the FA Cup and its unique nature,' Trevor Phillips, the FA's commercial director, said yesterday. Phillips, who has been looking into sponsorship of the world's oldest cup competition for 18 months, added that it is 'highly unlikely that we would sell the main title - it's unlikely to be the Bloggo Cup'. Or Sonic The Hedgehog Cup?

A TALE OF TWO BOOKIES: English odds-layers are offering 20-1 for England to qualify - unbelievably miserly given the equation - but one of their Irish counterparts, Paddy Power, has refunded all wagers on the Republic to beat Spain in an attempt to lift the country, an act of generosity expected to cost up to pounds 50,000.

IT HAD TO HAPPEN - a J League fanzine. The Tokyo-based 'Japan Soccer' ('guaranteed not written by ex-baseball reporters') canvassed fans at a Grampus Eight match on how they viewed the issue of sudden death to avoid draws. Most were against, but not so the younger supporters. One 10-year-old said he liked extra time because 'I can stay out later' while another Nagoya admirer ventured: 'We think it's really good because it means we can wave our flags longer.' Probably not the benefits Fifa has in mind.

PAUL McSTAY, a famous name from a famous family in Glasgow, endured a dreadful trip to Rome this week. Not only did the Celts' playmaker reluctantly relinquish the Scottish captaincy but he was then dropped for the first time - by anyone - in his career. The Stadio Olimpico's scoreboard operator added insult to injury by confusing him with another sub, Chris McCart, McStay being introduced as P McCart.

STATS LIFE: THE bottle of Aberlour malt for freak fact of the week goes to M Clark, of Wrington, Avon, for this:

'Last Saturday was no different than any other. The best crowd in England was again over 40,000 at Manchester United where still no one has come and won this season. A draw between Eubank and Benn saw to that.'

More malt next week. All freak facts to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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