Football Diary: Vale find the cap that fits

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The Independent Online
STEP ASIDE Manchester United and Newcastle, Port Vale's club shop is the real boom zone. On an average gate of 8,000, the Valiants have unexpectedly sold 12,000 first-team shirts (at pounds 27.99) along with thousands of one style of Vale T-shirt (pounds 14.99) and embroidered cap (pounds 5.99). And all because of one man, well, teenager: Take That popster, Stoke-born Robbie Williams, who often sports his beloved Vale kit on TV. 'Robbie wore that T-shirt on MTV and we had loads of people asking for it,' Andrew Burgess, the Vale club shop manager, said. 'Then he wore that cap on the Big Breakfast and that sold well too.' Robbie devotees travel 'from all over the country' to Burslem, including, Burgess said, 'one chap from Scotland who had driven 247 miles to get here'. Vale are welcoming them with open arms (and full tills). 'We estimate the Take That connection is worth pounds 10,000 a month to the club,' Burgess added.

AS Eric Cantona glides inexorably towards Player of the Year accolades, incantations lauding his name keep surfacing. The latest Stretford song of praise is seasonally topical: 'On the 12th Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me: 12 Cantonas, 11 Cantonas, 10 Cantonas, Nine Cantonas, Eight Cantonas, Seven Cantonas, Six Cantonas, Five Can-To-Narrrrrrrs; Four Cantonas, Three French Kings, Two Cantonas and an Eric Cantona'. Final total: 75 Cantonas and three French kings.

WHEN Cantona was awarded a free-kick by Gerald Ashby during Sunday's tie at Sheffield United, the Worcester whistle-blower was greeted with a unique slice of terrace abuse: 'You f***ing Francophile'.

LIKE HER Presidential pa, Chelsea Clinton received a mini mauling in the US press recently, so much so that the hip clothing company, Don't Panic], started selling T-shirts telling the world to 'Leave Chelsea Alone'. You've guessed it: those embattled boys from Stamford Bridge's Shed, having spotted an American tourist wearing one, tracked down Don't Panic] to LA and ordered 12.

THE overenthusiastic boxer, Michael Bentt, may have gone to the New Den to parade his English roots but Millwall's highly rated American goalkeeper, Kasey Keller, is a true son of Uncle Sam, OK? Keller ticked off the Lions' programme for daring to anglicise his quotes: 'Never have I used the words 'lads' when referring to my team-mates. They are 'guys' and I don't play a 'bit of golf'. I play 'a little golf'. The article made me sound like an Englishman.'

WHEN Vinnie Jones was asked to voice a promotion for a cable-television company, the cynical studio crew opened a book on how many attempts he would need to get it right. Vinnie disappointed them, doing it first time.

ARSENAL, 'a mouse that roars' according to their coach, are heading to South Africa for a cup tie. Not the Gunners, who went pre-season, but Lesotho's finest, proud possessors of the same name, shirts and badge. But there the similarity ends. The African players have to buy their own kit, while the club-house is a million miles away from those marble halls - the sitting- room of the coach's flat.

STOCKPORT'S physio, Rodger Wylde, possesses immense healing powers. A County youth-team player, Stephen Schofield, underwent a session of ultrasound treatment and, although it took some time, his injury responded to Wylde's work. Surprising, really, as another player in the room noticed that Wylde had forgotten to plug the ultrasound machine in.

TO honour USA '94, the Aberlour Malt for freak fact has been replaced by Wild Turkey Bourbon. The first bottle goes to David Jones, of Godrergraig, near Swansea, for this:

'The Bristol City-Liverpool FA Cup tie abandoned due to floodlight failure on Saturday was refereed by Martin Bodenham. Last season's Exeter-Swansea Cup tie was also abandoned due to floodlight failure. The referee was . . . Martin Bodenham.'

More bourbon next week. Freak facts to Football Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y2DB.