FOOTBALL: The ram raiders of Wembley

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Carlisle United fans will be flocking to Wembley next month like sheep - or rather, with sheep, inflatable ones. Fans have trawled sex shops to acquire the ultimate accessory for the club's first Wembley trip, for the Auto Windscreens Shield final against Birmingham City on 23 April.

Love Ewes, designed for those with unusual habits, have been latched on to by supporters of the Cumbrian club as something to brandish at rival fans who taunt them with suggestions that they wear their wellingtons down from the top. One fan described the verbal abuse as, "an occupational hazard of being a Carlisle fan. The best possible response is to hold up your inflatable sheep and shout `don't knock it until you've tried it'."


Port Vale's Andy Porter so seldom scores - eight goals in 250 appearances - that you might have thought he would claim every one he could. But the goal originally credited to him in the 2-1 defeat of Bristol City, which would have been Porter's second in successive games, has now been awarded to Kevin Scott. The on-loan Spurs defender did get a deflection, though his colleagues' unusually strong support for his claim may have had something to do with the fact that several had backed him, at 33-1, to be the first scorer. Scott, alas, was not among them.

No transfers until the end of the season... Barry Fry must be suffering withdrawal symptoms. Teased before Thursday's deadline about how he would cope without the daily attempt to complete a set of ex-Barnet and Southend players, Birmingham's wheeler-dealing supremo protested: "You press guys think I'm a nutter who can't go a week without buying someone. I'm not - at Barnet we had an embargo on transfers for a whole season and couldn't even get a player on loan. But we still went up." So there.


Arley Betancourt's is an intriguing case. He was the Colombian midfielder who threw a punch at the referee and kicked him after he was sent off during a Pan-American Games match against Mexico this week. "I don't know what happened," Betancourt said. "I lost my mind when I saw the red card." Perhaps he lapsed into a Cantona-tonic trance.


The last word on alternative adjectives to describe Hartlepool United comes from David Shedden, co-editor of the club's admirable fanzine, Monkey Business. He suggests the politically correct alternatives: differently rich, selectively attended, fiscally challenged, or the club with special needs or moderate playing difficulties. Euphemistic alternatives: generous (to visiting sides), or friendly (if you're not a monkey). The ultimate advertising slogan he suggests is: "The North-east club where you don't need a season ticket to get in". He also, inadvertently, revealed that supporting Hartlepool is so intensely stressful it can lead to lost weekends. He sent his letter to "The Monday Football Diary".


Apparently maternity units in Ireland have come under intense pressure, their work-load boosted out of all proportion. Now, remind me, what happened last June?

A strict referee was summoned after a couple of off-the-ball incidents went unpunished last week. The errant official claimed he was "aurally unsighted". The new man in the black hole got into the swing by commending Invasion of the BOSNICH'atchers, Imperial Storm trHOOPERs, The Left Hand of HARKNESS and Life BUTT not as we know it. The Wild Turkey Bourbon is awarded to Matt Towey, of the Boot Room, Manchester, for:

SCIENCE FICTION XI: The H-SEGERS guide to the Galaxy; ThunderBERGs are go, WARK Factor Two, Alvin MARTIAN, Back to the FUTCHER; MORGAN Mindy, Ian ORMANDROID; U F FLO, 19HATELEY4, The Midwich EKOKUs, QuaterMASSINGA Pit.

Next week: Country & Western XI. Entries to: Team Spirit, Football Diary, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.