THE EARLY rounds of the FA Cup inevitably reveal the real heroes of football, not the pampered Premiership players on pounds 20,000-a-week but the people driven essentially by their love for the game.
Take Geoff Butler, of the Dr Martens League side Salisbury City, an object lesson to those who think combining the roles of player and manager is too taxing.
Butler, who has been at the club 16 years, is not only the team manager but commercial manager and managing director. In the build-up to Saturday's match against Hull City it was his responsibility not just to pick the team but to order extra food for the snack bars and the boardroom, not to mention ensuring the white lines had been painted and the kit had been washed.
A former full-back with Norwich and Bournemouth, Butler has tasted the professional life but cannot imagine how he would fill his time if he were in charge at a Premiership club, nor how the likes of George Graham and Alex Ferguson would manage if placed in his position.
"They couldn't just order a secretary to bring them in a cup of tea," he said. "They'd have to make it themselves, provided they had remembered to stop at the supermarket on the way to the ground to pick up some tea bags."
But when the Cup pairs you against League opposition and 2,500 people pour into your ground, it all becomes worthwhile. Pity Hull had to spoil his day by winning 2-0.
The Diamonds prove a cut above
CONGRATULATIONS TO Rushden & Diamonds, Enfield and Kidderminster Harriers - and not merely for surviving Saturday's FA Cup dramas to take their places in the second round draw.
They were the only three of those who performed above their station in Saturday's matches with Internet sites up-to-date enough to provide supporters with the full story of how it happened, ready to read within hours of the match finishing.
In keeping with their image as a progressive club bound one day to achieve Nationwide League status, the Diamonds of the Conference scored full marks, with a detailed match report on the Northamptonshire outfit's official web site.
So as not to appear too biased, the author admits that Rushden's goal was "somewhat flukey", a looping cross by Paul Underwood that hit the post and then bounced into the net off a hapless Shrewsbury goalkeeper. But, as they say, they all count.
Displaced Enfield supporters seeking news of their side's comeback against York should point their browsers at the Unofficial Enfield Football Club Homepage, which again provides a full match report and the news that a shortage of match programmes led to copies of the fanzine, The Green Traffic Light Society (don't ask!), selling out.
The number of Premiership red cards collected by Blackburn this season after Tim Sherwood's dismissal at Old Trafford.
The number of League matches since Middlesbrough last lost at home.
The goalless Premiership minutes Newcastle fans endured between Stephen Glass's goal against Derby on 17 October and Paul Dalglish's fourth-minute opener on Saturday.
I TOLD YOU SO
"I don't think there's any doubt Liverpool will be geed up now they have one manager in total charge."
David O'Leary, Leeds manager. Perhaps he should have delivered the Liverpool team talk ...
Bosnich beyond United's coffers
MANCHESTER UNITED'S interest in signing Mark Bosnich to replace Peter Schmeichel may be tempered by the Villa goalkeeper's financial demands, according to the People, which reckons the Australian is asking for pounds 62,000- a-week, taking his signing-on fee into account. A basic wage of pounds 35,000- a-week would shatter the Old Trafford pay structure and the United manager, Alex Ferguson, may instead turn to Ipswich's England under-21 prospect, Richard Wright, or the French World Cup keeper, Fabien Barthez.
The Express says that Villa, resigned to losing Bosnich when his contract expires in the summer, have their eye on Liverpool's David James. John Gregory is reportedly willing to pay pounds 3m for James, believing he can get the best out of the 28-year-old, likely to be surplus to requirements in Gerard Houllier's new Anfield regime. The People says Houllier is looking at Stuttgart's veteran Austrian, 34-year-old Franz Wohlfahrt, as a stop-gap. The Sunday Mirror claims Houllier's Anfield revolution could claim Paul Ince and Robbie Fowler. The Frenchman allegedly regards Ince as disruptive and feels the combination of Fowler and Michael Owen does not work.
According to the People, Tottenham are pursuing the 23-year-old Celta Vigo defender Miguel Salgado, for whom the Spanish club would want pounds 3m.
Dave Bassett has emerged as the target for managerless Wolverhampton Wanderers, the News of the World reports. The Forest boss is said to be unsettled at the City Ground.
The News of the World says Real Madrid are set to bid pounds 4m for Arsenal's Ray Parlour, while the People claims that Liverpool's Steve McManaman, supposedly bound for Real, has now set his heart on joining Juventus instead.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Today: Nottingham Forest may be facing a short life in the Premiership but if they can beat Derby at the City Ground the season will have at least one redeeming feature.
Tomorrow: England Under-21s are at Portman Road, Ipswich, for a friendly with the Czech Republic youngsters. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland's meeting with Moldova counts towards European Under-21 Championship standings.
Wednesday: England's seniors meet the Czech Republic at a Wembley friendly. There is European Championship action for Northern Ireland (versus Moldova) and the Republic of Ireland (in Yugoslavia) and under-21 duty for the Republic and Scotland, at home to Belgium.
Friday: An historic moment at Mansfield, whose otherwise not stunningly interesting Third Division match against Barnet features the debut of the new Fluo Flare luminous yellow ball.
Saturday: No shelter from the spotlight for Gerard Houllier, whose Liverpool side face the unbeaten Premiership leaders Aston Villa at Villa Park. Manchester United will want maximum points at Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal at Wimbledon. Chelsea test their upward mobility against the spoilers of Leicester at Filbert Street. First Division leaders Sunderland are at home to Barnsley.
EDITED BY JON CULLEY
Premiership Team Of The Week
Manager of the weekend: David O'Leary (Leeds United).Chose an attacking game plan for his young side and was rewarded with a fine victory.
Performance of the weekend: Chelsea - hitting their best form of the season to demolish regular bogey club Wimbledon.
Missing... making it... and mistaken
SIGNED FOR pounds 750,000 from Cagliari last year, the 32-year-old former Swiss No 1 took Mark Crossley's place at the start of last season but was injured after three matches and returned to find Dave Beasant established as first-choice goalkeeper. Joined FC Zurich on loan this season but is now back in Nottingham, his hopes of a permanent move having collapsed over personal terms.
PIERLUIGI CASIRAGHI may have been Chelsea's headline-making Italian signing last summer but he was not the only one. The manager, Gianluca Vialli, also acquired 17-year-old Luca Percassi, a strongly built defender from Atalanta who confirmed his promise on his senior debut when he came on as substitute in Wednesday's Worthington Cup demolition of Arsenal.
CURIOUSLY, JUST as Moscow sightings of Russian leader Boris Yeltsin have become rare, at Lancaster Gate the slim-line Graham Kelly seems to have been replaced with a somewhat more portly man of spreading girth and silver hair. Is this merely a coincidence?
Boris YeltsinReuse content