Football: The Sweeper

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Keegan back on Tyne for big night

A RECENT neck operation permitting, Kevin Keegan will keep his promise made shortly after his resignation from Newcastle United two years ago that he would only ever return to St James' Park for Peter Beardsley's testimonial, when he turns out for his former team-mate's big night against Celtic on 27 January. So, too, interestingly, will Keegan's successors on Tyneside, Kenny Dalglish (similarly disenchanted with the club) and possibly Ruud Gullit.

Included in a truly star-studded Newcastle XI will be former favourites Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle and Andy Cole, who was the first to accept the offer to play from Beardley's testimonial committee. They will be joined by Geordies Steve Bruce and Steve Stone, who will fulfil life-long ambitions when they pull on the black and white stripes, while Lee Clark has been given permission to appear 24 hours after Sunderland's Worthington Cup semi-final first leg against Leicester.

Beardsley, who scored on his debut for Hartlepool last week, is guaranteed a 36,000 sell-out. Tickets go on sale next week.

UHLSPORT, THE German sportswear company, would appear to be working hand in glove with the Indian restaurant in Stockport which gives Carlo Nash a free curry every time he keeps a clean sheet. The former Crystal Palace goalkeeper has been signed up to promote the company's gloves which are called - would you believe it - Uhlsport Windbreaker. A former part- time model, the Clitheroe kid, all 6ft 5in and 14st of him, naturally needs a bit of space to relax and unwind after games on the team bus home, but with four consecutive clean sheets - not to mention four free curries - behind him his size may not be the only reason for that.

A FILM to be made about the life of George Best hit a snag when the director wanted to re-enact the Irish legend's six-goal haul for Manchester United in an FA Cup tie at Northampton in 1970 simply because the County Ground no longer exists. The Cobblers left their old stadium to move to their present home, at Sixfields Stadium, six years ago. So instead the producers have asked Warrington Town, of the North Western Trains League, if they can use their Cantilever Park stadium for the scene since it bears a striking resemblance to the County Ground. "We were delighted to help out," said spokesman Colin Serjent. "It is a proud boast that Cantilever Park will be used for a film about George Best, and ironic given that our ground was not considered good enough for the North Western Trains League First Division last season."

WHILE THE English and Scottish were running their socks off as usual over Christmas and the New Year, three young Manchester United exports had their first taste of how much of the rest of Europe spends the festive period, that is, with its feet up. Danny Higginbotham, Ronnie Wallwork and Jamie Wood are back in Manchester enjoying a month's rest as the Belgian season takes its winter break, enabling players to rest and recuperate, even undergo minor surgery. All three play for United's new nursery club, Royal Antwerp, whose 18-man squad includes players from 13 countries. Antwerp are fifth in the league, which reopens today week, five points behind leaders KV Mechelen after taking 22 points from 24. If nothing else, British clubs' activity has given the Belgian press something to report. One headline over Christmas read incredulously: "They played on Saturday and they play again on Monday!"

WELL, THEY had to dry up some time. It is now exactly a year since Ian Rush, one of the most prolific goalscorers of the modern game and now player-coach of Wrexham, last scored a goal of any description and two years since he last scored a League goal. Rush, 37, has not scored since he bundled home the winner for Newcastle United at Everton in last season's FA Cup third round - his 43rd goal in the competition, a post-war record. And his last League goal was for Leeds United two years ago on Monday when he scored twice in a 3-1 win against Leicester. So if he should score in a Wrexham win at Reading today, I suppose the Second Division club could claim never to have lost a game in which Rush has scored.

LIKE HIS Liverpool "twin" John Aldridge, Rush doubtless knows a goalscorer when he sees one. Feeling rightly chuffed on Boxing Day after his third victory over Sunderland since turning to management at Tranmere, Aldo was somewhat irked to hear Gary Megson, of First Division rivals Stockport, bemoaning his lot after spending pounds 900,000 this season on one player, Ian Moore. "That's the sort of luxury I simply can't afford; I'd be looking to bring in perhaps three players for that kind of money," said the Irishman, whose financial constraints at Prenton Park are well known, adding: "And I wouldn't term Ian Moore a prolific goalscorer."

QUITE A few clubs would do well to follow the lead of Billy Davies, the Motherwell manager, who has introduced a novel idea of fining players who give banal quotes to newspapers. It all goes into a kitty and once a month the entire squad get taken out for a Chinese meal. After his depressing time at Goodison Park, it has certainly cheered up Davies' on-loan brother- in-law John Spencer, who is hoping for a permanent move soon. Players who get sent off also have to stump up money. "It costs about pounds 300 or pounds 400," said Spencer, "and I'd like to say that I'm really looking forward to eating big Shaun Teale's wages in a couple of weeks' time."

As You Were

WHAT ON earth are Liverpool coming to? Take a look at the youthful, handsome faces of some of the club's key players of the late 1970s and early '80s (top row, left to right, Phil Neal, Phil Thompson, Graham Souness and Terry McDermott). Not for them the Spice Boy antics that current Reds allegedly get themselves involved in. Not for them to perform marvels one day and play like a bunch of losers the next. Not for them to think they deserve pounds 110,000 or pounds 35,000 per week and still not sign new contracts, as Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler have recently reported to have done. Oh no. The boys from the glory years wanted nothing more than to pull on the Liverpool shirt and play for their club. Bonuses meant nothing more than a bottle of hair conditioner to keep the perm in shape and everyone was happy. And who can say that it did them any harm? As the current pictures show, the Old Boys these days (bottom row) look as happy and healthy as ever, and have all achieved huge success (well... a kind of success) in management or coaching positions at Manchester City, in the England camp, in Portugal, at Newcastle, among other places - and possibly at the barber shop, too.

The price is right

THE SWEEPER'S STOMPING CERTAINTIES

OUR FA CUP did not exactly runneth over last week, but Manchester United duly dispatched Middlesbrough and all five of our FA Cup ante-post portfolio - Aston Villa, Tottenham, West Ham, Leicester and Southampton - are still in the hunt, so we are still on our way to Wembley and the pay window. Coventry to beat hapless Nottingham Forest, perennial draw merchants Everton to be held by Leicester, and Middlesbrough to draw with Aston Villa makes an attractive Saturday treble while Manchester United, who returned to form against Boro last Sunday, can hammer West Ham at Old Trafford tomorrow. Bologna can hold Sampdoria to a draw in Genoa, while Aston Villa, at 7-1, look a must addition to Arsenal (pounds 3 at 5-1 - now 4-1 recently) in our Premiership portfolio.

n LIBERO WAGERS

(pounds 2 treble with Stanley): Coventry to beat Nottingham Forest (8-11); Everton to draw with Leicester (11-5); Middlesbrough to draw with Aston Villa (9-4).

n SUNDAY SKY MATCH

Manchester United v West Ham

Manchester United (pounds 3.50 to win, 4-7, Ladbrokes).

n SUNDAY C4 ITALIAN JOB

Sampdoria v Bologna

Draw (pounds 2.50, 2-1, Coral & Tote).

n PREMIERSHIP PORTFOLIO

Aston Villa (pounds 2 to win, 7-1, Coral & Tote).

ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 115.02!

TODAY'S BETS: pounds 10.90 (including pounds 0.90 tax paid on).

Where in the World?

ENGLISH CLUBS are certainly leading the way in Europe, but only Chelsea are doing so for positive reasons. Signor Vialli's team's run of 19 unbeaten League games is up there with the best on the Continent, but for Charlton - challenging Doxa Katokopia of Cyprus for the title of most successive defeats - and Nottingham Forest (leading the "since last win" table), the situation looks somewhat gloomier.

UNBEATEN RUNS

1 AIK Stockholm (Sweden) 19

2 Chelsea (England) 19

3 Obilic Belgrade (Yugoslavia) 17

4 Partizan Belgrade (Yugoslavia) 17

5 Sparta Prague (Czech Republic) 15

SUCCESSIVE DEFEATS

1 Doxa Katokopia (Cyprus) 9

2 Charlton Athletic (England) 7

3 Universitatea Cluj (Romania) 6

4 Paniliakos Pirgos (Greece) 5

5 Zhemchuzhina Sochi (Russia) 5

SINCE LAST WIN

1 Nottingham Forest (England) 17

2 Jaro Jakobstad (Finland) 15

3 Kortrijk (Belgium) 15

4 Ethnikos Piraeus (Greece) 14

5 Lokomotiv Plovdiv (Bulgaria) 14

MY TEAM

Ed Stewart

Everton

DJ on Radio 2

"I've been an Everton supporter for 50 years and it's funny how defeats stick in the mind. My first match was Everton's 6-0 defeat at Chelsea. Then there was the 10-4 defeat at Spurs. By far the most important game ever was last season's final match against Coventry when we just avoided relegation. I've met some of the old greats like Brian Labone and the manager Harry Catterick. In the early days of Radio 1 we had a keep-fit competition and I was weighed in the Goodison dressing-room. I remember knocking myself out on the pirate ship Radio London when Everton scored the winner in the 1966 FA Cup final."

IN T'NET

Found on the Web: "Footie fun" products.

ANDREW ENDLAR, the man behind this site, was a chemical manufacturer by trade when asked to develop a device for maintaining the freshness of hikers' boots. Through some bizarre logic, this invention led to designing a range of branded goods, mostly confectionery, for football clubs to sell. The site gives details of the alliterative products on offer. "The Scottish clubs in particular are going crazy for it," said Mr Endlar of his main chocolate line, Footie Footballs. "What we want for future products is to keep the alliteration going," he added. Footie Frogs (chocolate bars in the shape of frogs, wrapped in club colours) and Footie Frisbees are the next innovations to be developed.

http://freespace.virgin.net/andrew.endlar/current.htm

Seen But Not Bought

DO OLDHAM players have especially stinky feet? Why else would they be the first club to have their own branded Footie Fresh? "A very small, pump-action air-freshener for football boots," is how the makers (see above) describe these must-have items. At pounds 1.99, who could turn their noses up?

They're Not All Dennis Bergkamp

Unsung foreign

legionnaires No 21

DIRK LEHMANN: The 27-year-old German was a centre-back when he played in his home country for Energie Cottbus but can now be found filling the role of striker for Fulham after moving last summer for pounds 30,000. Lehmann started his career with Alemannia Aachen, moved on to FC Cologne, and played for Belgian sides Lierse SK and RWD Molenbeek before the grand step up to Mr Al Fayed's Cottagers. Known affectionately as "porn star" due to his pencil moustache and stylishly- coiffured blond hair, Dirk has scored five times in some 20 games so far since his move.

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