Football Diary: Typical of a Guy like Nigel

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The Independent Online
GUY WHITTINGHAM, the League's leading goalscorer last season, is heading for another record - most nicknames. The Aston Villa striker - who already possesses the monikers 'Punishment' (he used to be a corporal), 'Count' (after an alleged likeness to Dracula) and 'Badger' (from the white flecks in his dark hair) - acquired his fourth in Spain, where Deportivo La Coruna listed him as 'Nigel Whittingham' in the programme for Tuesday's Uefa Cup tie.

Still, his team-mates can't laugh. Gordon Cowans was dubbed 'Dave' while the official handout included those claret-and-blue legends Nark Bosnish, Karl Barrett, Brian Smann, Dean Saunosos, Tony Dalby and Nicol Spink. 'Super Depor' failed to discover why Doug Ellis is known as 'Deadly' but then they were not on the flight back, during which the Villa chairman launched 'Danny Boy' with Nigel Kennedy. Record scouts were not alerted.

MENTION the word 'sweep' to Ellis's Norwich counterpart, Robert Chase, and he will break into a rich smile. After watching his sweeper-inspired side batter Bayern's pride, the millionaire won 'three or four pounds' in the directors' sweep. The winnings from the press sweep stayed in Munich - only the German coach driver of the media corps thought Norwich had a chance.

THE trio of goalkeepers Liverpool started this season with have experienced mixed fortunes. Bruce Grobbelaar narrowly missed the World Cup but not Steve McManaman's neck, while David James, the No 1 choice last season and tipped as England material, has been confined either to bench or reserve duty. The mood of both Grobbelaar and James cannot have been raised by the Tim Flowers speculation.

All this Anfield angst is but a receding memory now for the other gloved wonder in the club photograph: Mike Hooper, underrated goalkeeper and budding mastiff- keeper, is currently in the form of his life at Newcastle United. Hooper's arrival has delighted Magpie followers and magpie watchers alike, as the 29-year-old Bristolian is a respected twitcher in the bird world. The Magpies were an obvious club for a footballing ornithologist after spells with the Liver Bird, and two nests of Robins (Bristol City and Wrexham). Next stops, Norwich and Sheffield Wednesday?

TWENTY travel companies have won official authorisation from the World Cup hosts to organise trips to the United States - a fifth of them are from England.

ARSENAL have not always made the right moves in Europe (remember Benfica) but two midweek events declared otherwise. The morning after Standard Liege and Arie Haan were given a Total going over, a book entitled The End (Mainstream, pounds 12.99) was launched at Highbury. The 350-page epic was penned by Tom Watt, a thespian and Arsenal nut equally at home on the South Bank or North Bank. Watt's love of the latter inspired him to produce this engrossing compendium of reminiscences about one of the game's most famous terraces, now buried beneath a magnificent new edifice. Apart from talking to fans and players, Watt waded through all the board minutes, one of which of was notably prescient: April 1939 - 'Cancel close-season game in Germany'.

THE handbook of the Northern League (which spawned Waddle and Pallister) contains some important rules on the game, notably 'Qualifications for a League Tie'. Players are 'allowed to purchase a tie after five years continuous service with one club in the League, or (after they have) played in five representative matches for the League'. Match officials are 'allowed to purchase a tie after five years service'. League Management Committee officials 'will be presented with a tie after five years service in the League'.

STATS LIFE

THE Aberlour Malt for the freak fact goes to June Barnes, of Essex, for this:

'Graham Taylor and Hoover share a common freak fact, in that neither can get people to the United States.'

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

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