Football Diary: Villa's pride melts

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The Independent Online
Aston Villa are a club with a strong sense of tradition, but the new year brings a centenary in which they take no pride. For it was in 1895, when the original FA Cup was in their possession, that the silverware was stolen from the window of a ne arby shop where it was on display.

To mark the occasion, Villa's excellent club magazine, Claret & Blue, has re-investigated the crime. The world's most celebrated knock-out trophy was, it transpires, melted down for counterfeit coins to provide beer money for three ne'er-do-wells. Villains of a more sporting bent point out that their team have lost the FA Cup more often than Birmingham City have won it.

*** Familiarity certainly doesn't breed contempt when it comes to the FA Cup as anyone connected with the Uniteds of Manchester and Sheffield or the capital's Millwall and Arsenal would testify.

Chelsea are being hounded by family connections. At this stage last season, Glenn Hoddle's charges came up against a Barnet side that included his brother Carl. This time they face London rivals Charlton, whose reserve team coach, Keith Peacock, is the father of Chelsea's Gavin. In addition, Anthony Barness and Scott Minto, who once played for Charlton, now wear Chelsea blue, while Keith Jones, who is struggling for fitness, moved from Stamford Bridge to the Valley via a circuitous route.

There is a family connection with a difference in the Newcastle-Blackburn tie. Barry Venison, the Newacstle defender, has a German shepherd that is the offspring of one belonging to the Blackburn and former Liverpool manager, Kenny Dalglish.

The concern Middlesbrough show for their fans around the country is reflected in the late 1994 issue of Middlesbrough Supporters South, which contains a very interesting interview with Bryan Robson. In one passage he addresses his work with England, for which he has no contract, and what that might lead to. "I see that being of benefit to my education in football. I enjoy working with Terry Venables and Don Howe. It's all based on bringing me through to maybe be the next England manager. Whether they decided they are going to offer me the job at that time, or whether I'm going to want the job at that time, who knows? They talk about Terry Venables maybe packing it in in maybe two years, then saying he's maybe going to the World Cup, which is going to be four years. He knows that if he's a success, he could be the England manager for the next 10 or 12 years - you just never know how people are going to respond or react."

Nor, indeed, how people would respond or react if Middlesbrough didn't make it to the Premiership.

*** So how did they fare, those poor souls who had to put up with long journeys to play those holiday games that came so thick and fast? Monkey Business, the admirable fanzine of Hartlepool United, had a direct interest as their side suffered the longestjourney. The Pool's trip to Torquay headed the fanzine's top 10 at 340 miles each way, and they drew 2-2. Sunderland went 240 miles each way to lose 3-0 at Luton, while Barnsley travelled 210 miles and back to lose 3-0 at Portsmouth. All-in-all t he long-distance players returned with three wins, three draws, and four defeats. Quite good, really.

England's Ashes revival series inspired a late rush of Cricket XI entries. The chance of victory disappeared as darkness fell for all but Dave Gunn, of Ruddington, plucked a Wild Turkey out of the air with: CRICKET XI: (Mervyn) One DAY international; (Neil) Cover POINTon, (Stig Inge) BjorneBYE, PADdy Crerand, (Steve) BOULD; (Didier) SIX, RODNEY MARSH, Full TOS(s)tao, The (Gordon) HILL; (Marco van) EdgBASTEN, (Kapil) DEVon (White).

Next week: Chinaware XI (in honour of those who feel like throwing it after the weekend's FA Cup action). Entries to: Team Spirit, Football Diary, Sports Desk, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL