Football: The Sweeper

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The Independent Online
Everton redefine art of shirt-pulling

YOU HAVE just won the FA Cup final, and if you are Matt Jackson in 1995 better still, because you have just helped make the winning goal for Everton against Manchester United. So how do you celebrate? Drink yourself into a stupor? Slap Joe Royle on the back and tell him he's got a job for life? Watch the television recording until the tape wears itself out? No. According to Jackson's wife, Julie, you slip on your husband's match shirt, or whatever it is he wears, and make passionate love to him.

"Almost every player went back to the hotel and made love to his wife with her wearing their husband's shirt," Mrs Jackson tells Match of the Day magazine in their latest issue. "Everyone came downstairs and said to each other: `You've just done it in his shirt, haven't you?' "

"That's not true," interrupted Matt. "I know Dave Watson and his wife slept with the FA Cup between them..."

It was not disclosed how the match-winner, Paul Rideout, and his wife spent the night, but it was possibly less of a knockout than it was for them in Florida the other day. While there on holiday, Rideout was trying to attain the strict level of fitness required for a return to the Chinese league, when during an early morning run he was struck by a reversing station wagon.

Whatever damage was done to the car, the rugged Rideout required only a precautionary check-up, but when his wife arrived at the hospital and saw him in a wheelchair she promptly fainted. Thankfully, both Rideouts made a quick recovery.

The former holders could do with some of Rideout's knockout quality in front of goal against Coventry today in their fifth-round tie at Goodison. Another former Evertonian, David Burrows, is confident they won't find it. The former Liverpool defender, now with the Sky Blues, spent just six weeks at Goodison, but it was long enough to help him maintain his record of never finishing up on the losing side in a Merseyside derby - 10 games in all - and he cannot see Coventry losing to them either.

"We achieved an easy 3-0 win over them in November," he said. "It was one of the poorest Everton sides I've ever seen."

BEING A technical man, Howard Wilkinson will have noted how Zone 14 proved to be the undoing of his England team against France this week. Sports scientists at the Sir John Moores' University in Liverpool recently analysed 24 matches played by the four World Cup semi-finalists as well as 12 games involving sides who failed to qualify for the second round. They divided the pitch into 18 separate zones and came to the conclusion that Zone 14, the area immediately outside the `D', was where the better teams punished the opposition. "It's the critical area of the pitch for exploitation of any creative action," Tom Reilly, of the University, said, "and the springboard for true penetration of the defensive line." Brazil's Rivaldo, the Netherlands' Dennis Bergkamp and Croatia's Zvonomir Boban were picked out as major dangers in that area - with France's Zinedine Zidane the most dangerous of all.

WHILE THE bulldozers are never likely to be waiting at the gates at Old Trafford as they have done at the grounds of failing clubs down the year, it's just possible that Manchester United's proposed new training ground could go under the plough. The club's multi-million pound development at Carrington is being built on prime agricultural land, which means that in the event of war it could become Government property and used to grow crops. Undeterred, United are ploughing on with their pounds 143m investment. "We've had conditions placed upon its use which mean we have to be able to turn it to agricultural use within 24 hours," George Johnstone, the club's Group Property manager, said. "The theory is if there was an invasion or an outbreak of war that is what we would have to do. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries insists such conditions are imposed." Well, United always were renowned for their home-grown produce.

GEORGE GRAHAM could have told him so after his experiences with Lucas Radebe, but Gerard Houllier would probably have come to the same conclusion as his erstwhile Leeds counterpart - which is that his African is worth all the aggravation. No sooner, it seems, has Rigobert Song arrived at Anfield than the Cameroon defender is off to play in the African Nations' Cup against Mozambique, thereby missing Liverpool's crucial away game against Chelsea on 27 February. The Merseysiders had better get used to the idea because there is going to be more of the same. Song, signed for pounds 2.6m from Serie A strugglers Salernintana, has assured Pierre Lechantre, the new Cameroon national coach, that he will be available for all international matches. "I remain an Indomitable Lion!" the former Metz player proudly declared. Meanwhile, the Liverpool defence faces a mauling at Stamford Bridge.

FOOTBALL'S PAYMASTER, Sky TV, may have carte blanche in deciding when Premiership games should be played, but I wonder if they are aware that their decision to move Aston Villa's home match against West Ham United to Good Friday is in contravention of Villa's articles of association - not that they are likely to care. Apparently, back in 1874, when the club was formed by worshippers of Aston's Methodist Wesley Chapel, it was agreed that the club would not stage matches on Sundays or Good Fridays. Perhaps they have got special dispensation from you-know-who... yes, that's right, Rupert Murdoch.

As you were

COULD THIS be the first day at school in 1980 for new recruits into the Lawrie McMenemy Tip-Top Academy of Football Management? Could that be McMenemy (front left) gazing adoringly at his latest pupil, Kevin "just back from Hamburg" Keegan and thinking "by `eck lad, I'd like a head of hair like that"? Could that be Dave Watson (far right), pondering his future and wondering whether he's made a terrible mistake by enrolling because he somehow can't see himself as a boss in the future? And could that be Chris Nicholl and Alan Ball (left and right of Keegan), smiling nicely for the camera and thinking "We might screw up as club managers in the future, but at least we'll never get ourselves into contention for that most poisoned of chalices, the England job"? Er... no. But, it could be the day Wor Kev signed for the Saints.

The price is right

MANCHESTER UNITED, Arsenal and Liverpool last week - has there ever been an easier treble? Actually, The Sweeper was momentarily worried when the Middlesbrough bus turned up at Anfield. It's FA Cup weekend again and, apart from cheering on our portfolio - Arsenal (bankers to beat the Blades), Tottenham, Leeds, and, err..... Huddersfield, Barnsley and Fulham - there are some draw bets to be had in tight ties. Spurs can hold Leeds to a draw at Elland Road, Chelsea can draw with Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield may hold Derby to a draw. Fulham are a bit of fun to get a draw with Manchester United tomorrow while Newcastle may be held to a draw by Blackburn. Cagliari, no mugs at home, can hold Lazio to a draw in Channel 4's game which, while not live, will be shown in full later.

n LIBERO WAGERS

(Four pounds 2 trebles with Stanley): Arsenal to beat Sheff Utd (2-7); Leeds to draw with Tottenham (9-4); Sheff Wed to draw with Chelsea (11-5); Huddersfield to draw with Derby (11-5).

n SUNDAY ITV MATCH

Manchester United v Fulham

Draw (pounds 1, 4-1, generally).

n SUNDAY SKY MATCH

Newcastle v Blackburn

Draw (pounds 2, 9-4, William Hill, Ladbrokes & Stanley).

n SUNDAY C4 ITALIAN JOB

Cagliari v Lazio

Draw (pounds 2, 2-1, Coral & William Hill).

ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 146.82!

TODAY'S BETS: pounds 14.17 (including pounds 1.17 tax paid on).

THE SWEEPER'S CUP OF GOOD CHEER

Mascot on the mat

Name: Cyril the Swan.

Club: Swansea.

Appearance: Bad-tempered, eight-foot goose who has a penchant for running on to the pitch and upsetting members of the Welsh FA.

Crime sheet: Cyril has only been at the club a matter of months, but already has a list of offences longer than his neck. Abseiling down a floodlight, hissing at a linesman, and attacking people pale into insignificance when you remember the greatest feather in his cap: attracting a disrepute charge from the Welsh FA for staging a swan-man pitch invasion after his side took the lead against West Ham in the FA Cup last month. Cyril is up before the beak (well, the Welsh FA) in the near future for that.

In mitigation, Your Honour: Don't the po-faced Welsh FA have more important things to think about than the surreal Cyril? Surely it's better to leave this particular swan vista alone until he gooses a referee?

Other information: His temperament means he is not always such a nice swan, Cyril. As one club official put it: "He's mad and totally unpredictable. God knows what will happen."

Paul Stevenson

My team

Steve Rider

Charlton

BBC sports presenter, often at the helm on Grandstand

"I served my time behind goals guarded with a varying degree of efficiency by the likes of Duff, Wakeham and Rose at nondescript Second Division matches - all of which live in the memory - eventually being rewarded with a battling few years in the First Division in the late 80s, and now in the Premiership. Whatever the outcome of the relegation battle I've had the kind of moment that every football follower from SE7 must dream of - to be able to sit in the Grandstand studio on the afternoon of 22 August and tell an audience of five million that `by my calculations, Charlton Athletic are top of the Premiership tonight'."

In t'net

Found on the Web: Nationwide League official home page

The highlight of this comprehensive site (which has news and all the other usual items you'd expect from a sponsor's site) is a map of the country covered in dots. Each dot represents a Nationwide club and just by hovering on the dot you are provided with an instant weather report at the venue, as well as the next fixture and the ground capacity. More comprehensive club profiles are available, as is a massive database of every player in country. The only fault with the latter is that it does not appear to have been updated since last August.

http://www.football.nationwide.co.uk/default.asp? fade=true

Seen but not bought

THE KEVIN KEEGAN postcard (50p) is the only item of manager merchandise available from the Fulham club shot, despite his messiah status. Perhaps not wanting to tempt fate, the club has no FA Cup merchandise on sale at all. "But all our yellow stuff [the away colours] is 20 per cent off at the moment," a saleswoman said. Presumably that's because The Cottagers are playing away tomorrow and not because the club doesn't sell much and their wares have become discoloured through neglect.

They're not all Dennis Bergkamp

Unsung foreign

legionnaires No 26

HERMANN HREIDARSSON: The 24-year-old Icelandic international defender played in his home country for IBV, a team based on the small island (pop. 5,000) from which he comes. He was enticed to England by Crystal Palace in the summer of 1997, having been recommended by Bolton's Gudni Bergsson to the then Eagles manager, Steve Coppell. "Hermann is an innocent abroad and long may that continue," Coppell said of his acquisition at the time. The Iceman, as solid and reliable as any Palace defender in recent years, played 30 times for Palace last season and scored twice. By September last year he was no longer an innocent abroad. He'd cottoned on that the prospects at Selhurst Park were not rosy and swiftly moved to Ron Noades' Third Division Brentford.

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