Football: The Sweeper - New deal? News to me, says Coppell

ALL WAS not as it seemed on Monday, when the Crystal Palace chairman, Mark Goldberg, addressed a gathering of fans and reassured them over the future of the financially troubled club. Goldberg said his manager, Steve Coppell, had signed a new five-year deal. This was about the only thing he said all night that was applauded by the majority of the audience, who had had to pay pounds 5 for the privilege of hearing the extent of their club's troubles. But wait. Yesterday's Croydon Advertiser ran a headline saying "Coppell: I have not signed a fresh deal." In the article Coppell was quoted as saying that he has had his current contract since Terry Venables left in January and there was nothing new about it. "I don't have a new five-year contract," he said. On the task of trying to pick a team each week, when the future is in the balance, he added: "It is pointless really. I have no control whatsoever over who comes in or who goes from the football club."

Fans have also been wondering how many of Monday's audience were either bodyguards for Goldberg - it was later revealed that his administrators had insisted on a team of walkie-talkied minders being placed strategically around the hall - and how many were pro-Goldberg stooges. At one point, a "fan" asked: "Are Mark's problems only the same as [previous owner] Ron Noades's? Is Mark not just being more honest?" The truth-seeker was recognised, however, as a Palace official who had the temerity to throw The Sweeper's representative out of the club's training ground recently. Having made his point from the back of the hall, the questioner retired to a box occupied by other Goldberg supporters.

AFTER LAST Saturday's experience when Gordon Strachan paid the price for not having suitable cover for goalkeeper Magnus Hedman when the Swede injured himself early on, it is a fair bet that the Coventry manager will give veteran Steve Ogrizovic the 12-month contract extension he seeks. Contrary to reports, however, Oggy would still be lagging behind John Burridge as the oldest Premiership player on record - unless, of course, Strachan were to give him a two-year contract.

Burridge set the record when an injury to Tony Coton gave him the chance to turn out for Manchester City against Queen's Park Rangers in their last game of the 1994-95 Premiership season at the age of 43 years, five months and 11 days. Ogrizovic will only be 42 in September, but he has been a great servant for the club, overtaking George Curtis's record number of League appearances last season and now standing at 504.

He would almost certainly have made his 505th appearance last Saturday had he not been injured. When Hedman suffered a hip injury Strachan was reluctant to pit 17-year-old Chris Kirkland into the fray and as a result Hedman was beaten by a lame shot from Vladimir Kinder in a 2-1 home defeat to Middlesbrough which threw the Sky Blues back into the relegation melting pot.

JOHN TOSHACK has been cracking the whip at Real Madrid since his team's 5-1 thrashing by championship contenders Celta Vigo a fortnight ago with tough, military-style training sessions which may not go down too well with Steve McManaman, if comments from his former Liverpool team-mate, David Burrows, are anything to go by.

"I'm pleased he's going to Spain rather than Italy or anywhere else, because the quicker tempo of the game will suit him. He is a great lad, a manager's dream, but he will have to get used to the different ways of operating over there. He likes his freedom and spare time and over in Spain they train three times a day sometimes. It will be interesting to see how he copes with things like that." Well, he surely didn't think he would not have to work for his pounds 14m, did he?

LEE MILLS, the prolific Bradford City striker who took a fearful slagging off recently in the Port Vale programme on his return to the club, is the not the first Vale Park old boy, it would appear, to suffer from the author's poison pen. In an earlier Vale programme it was said of Dutchman Rogier Koordes after he had been released by the club: "He often looked as if he'd struggle to find a place in a Sunday League team full of middle- aged beer bellies whose pre-match warm-up is a fag and a pint of Peddy."

Of the departed Swede Jan Jannson it was said: "He seemed to have a fair- weather playing policy and his regular injuries were more often than not baffling to medical science. He was a bit like a Jaguar XJS, a fast designer car with great control but expensive to keep running and frequently unreliable."

Just what the two foreigners had done to invite such bile is not known. At least Mills had given cause for resentment with his parting shot: "Three years at Vale Park is enough for anybody." At recent home games the local fanzine, Vale Park Beano, has invited fans to sign a letter supporting the club's views on Lee Mills. "I think a lot of fans would agree with the article in the match programme," editor Dick Mills (definitely no relation) said.

IT'S NICE to be remembered. At Stoke's last home game, the winner of the half-time draw received his prize from Eric Skeels, who still holds the record for League appearances at the Potteries club - 506 from 1958- 76.

The public address announcer introduced the legendary Stoke figure by saying, "And here to make the award is ... Eric Sykes." What a Carry On.

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