Football: Graham hopes for hard line

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL hope the foul play clampdown currently changing the face of British football will be rigorously applied as they begin their defence of the European Cup-Winners' Cup against Omonia Nicosia tonight.

Although Arsenal should earn a satisfactory result to set themselves up for the Highbury return leg of the first-round tie, their manager, George Graham, knows the Cypriots will present a fierce physical challenge.

'When I came here last week to watch Omonia there were lots of tackles flying in, but not the bookings we have become used to in England,' he said. Graham fears the hard line may only be in full operation at home. 'We will be facing a competitive team and a hostile crowd. We've just got to get on with it but I hope the referee is strong.'

The man in charge is Portugal's Almeida Marcal and he, like the players, is likely to be tested by a frenzied atmosphere inside the Makarion Stadium - the scene of regular disturbances by the traditionally volatile Cypriot fans. Omonia's league match last weekend was interrupted by crowd trouble.

Tony Adams, Ian Selley and Kevin Campbell are all suspended after collecting two yellow cards in last season's European campaign, so Paul Merson and Ray Parlour can expect recalls.

Ian Wright's preparations were punctuated yesterday by an FA fine of pounds 750 for making a gesture to fans during the match against Queen's Park Rangers last season, and he faces a possible ban and a further fine for his observations about describing referee Robbie Hart a 'muppet' after Arsenal's game at Norwich.