Football: Lucky losers to take United's FA Cup place

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the 20 losing clubs in the FA Cup second round are to be given a second chance in the competition this season under a scheme drawn up to cope with the non-participation of Manchester United.

With the deadline having passed for United to reverse their decision to opt out, the Football Association last night announced they have created an "AXA wild card" - a title surely intended to try to allay the sponsors' concerns over the controversy.

The move is designed to ensure that one of the tournament's smaller teams, rather than the likes of Arsenal and Chelsea, are the beneficiaries of United's withdrawal. When the third-round draw takes place on 21 November, a total of 63 balls - as opposed to the normal 64 - will be included and the final team to be picked out will play at home to the wild-card entry. But the identity of that club will not be known until after all 20 second- round ties, including replays, have been concluded, when all the losing teams will then enter their own draw for the wild-card.

An FA spokesman said: "A number of opinions were considered...this was the best way forward."

Jack Walker is planning a clear-out at Ewood Park. The Blackburn Rovers owner is willing to sanction the sale of several players in the wake of Brian Kidd's dismissal. Among those believed to be on the way out are the England Under-21 striker Matt Jansen, one of Kidd's most expensive buys, his last signing Per Frandsen, the goalkeeper John Filan and Jason Wilcox, the club captain.

David Ginola may help clear Arsenal's Fredrik Ljungberg over his red card on Sunday by telling the FA he was not butted by the Swedish winger during the north London derby. Ginola, who had a lump on his head after the game, believes he was hit by an object thrown from the crowd.

Harry Kewell's advisors confirmed last night that the Leeds winger has been ruled out of Australia's friendly with Brazil on Sunday by calf and ankle injuries.

Furious Soccer Australia officials blamed Leeds for unprofessionalism and may ask Fifa to suspend Kewell from Leeds' next home game against Bradford on 20 November. Leeds have denied they had anything to do with Kewell's withdrawal.

Third Division strugglers Shrewsbury Town have sacked their manager, Jake King.