Football: On a wing without a prayer

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The Independent Online
THE bone-buckling excesses demanded of young footballers was again highlighted this week by Steve Froggatt. Aston Villa's talented 20- year-old winger, a veteran of two knee operations in the past year, believes his blight of injuries resulted from 'ridiculous' over-playing when younger - 'five or six matches a week between the ages of 12 and 16'. Even at the most conservative estimate, Froggatt would have endured 600 sapping games while his body was endeavouring to develop. Crazy.

TUT TUT all of those who thought 'typical' when watching Tuesday's hosts at Anfield, the North rugby union team, awarded all those penalties before the Kop.

COVENTRY CITY have had little to laugh about recently - until the arrival of Ally Pickering, Phil Neal's hot full-back prospect from Rotherham. At his first training session, Pickering announced to his new team-mates that he liked to be called Ally 'because my real name is Albert'. Big mistake. Needless to say, he is known as Albert.

DURING Arsenal's surprise midweek purple patch, even Highbury's reserve kit man managed to score. Bobby Armitt was among those on target for Arsenal Entertainers - who included David Court and the Brians, McDermott and Talbot - in Tuesday's 6-5 win over a Wet Wet Wet / Clyde- bank five-a-side team at Highbury.

THE weekend's richest-sounding fixture does not involve the likes of Rangers, Blackburn Rovers, Manchester United or Derby County but two clubs in the Unijet Brighton, Hove and District League Premier Division - American Express v Endsleigh (kick-off 2.15).

THE prospect of gold-digging in the Champions' League may have vanished in a smoke-filled Turkish stadium but there are still a myriad ways for United to generate income. Take hats. There are 24 different types of headwear on sale at Old Trafford, from the 'Black Brim Bronx' to 'Champions Beanie Hat', from the 'Black Jacquard Hat' to the 'Green Pinstripe Baseball Cap'. But definitely no Fezzes.

ANYONE who witnessed Tim Flowers during his Dell days knows what a commanding presence he is between the uprights. But Blackburn fans will hope his debut for them is more auspicious than his Saints' start: he conceded five at Old Trafford in September 1986 and his second game - a 4-0 defeat to Arsenal - was marred by injury.

WRIT large in Boston's 'Target' newspaper was the intriguing headline 'Smaller goals bring cup success to FC'. 'Could this be sharp practice in the Fens or a means of bringing success to Graham Taylor?' enquires Mike Andrews, from Cleethorpes. Sadly no such skulduggery: Boston FC's goals in their 2-1 Lincolnshire Senior A Cup victory at Stamford came from . . .Carl Smaller.

A TALE of two embassies, both Iraqi: the switchboard of Saddam's Seoul HQ has been glowing since his footballers equalised in the last minute against Japan in Doha, a result that allowed South Korea to reach the World Cup finals at Japan's expense. Iraq and South Korea are hardly old buddies but the late leveller earned Iraq the mother of all thank-you parties from the South Korean FA and precipitated 300 ecstatic calls to the local Iraqi embassy. Iraq's Tokyo base fared less well: angry Japan fans are suspected of nicking the embassy flag.

THE Koreans were not the only ones to profit from Japan's fall. As Japan's 1,000 tearful fans drove away from the stadium, a Doha Del Boy stood at a roundabout selling boxes of paper handkerchiefs.

THE bottle of Aberlour Malt for freak fact goes to Richard Costobadie, of the Potteries, for this:

'Up to half-time of Stoke's game against Barnsley nobody currently on Stoke's books had scored at home all season. Of the five goals scored, four were own goals and the other came from Mark Stein, who is now at Chelsea.'

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

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