Football: The Sweeper

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Davies still stalling on United action

AT LAST. The Football Association has promised that an announcement on its investigation into the Martin Edwards-David Elleray affair is imminent. The Manchester United chairman accused the referee of handing a title advantage to Arsenal (by being harsh to United against Liverpool in May, a game that ended 2-2). The FA has been "investigating" Edwards' comments since: i.e. procrastinating and dodging the issue while concerned insiders have wondered why no punishment has been handed out.

"I'd expect to have something to say over the weekend," the FA's David Davies said yesterday. "Or maybe Monday."

Asked why the matter has taken so long, he added: "It's not something I'm talking about."

We know that already, Mr Davies.

THE SWEEPER received an intriguing phone call yesterday.

"An FA official has been spending a lot of time on the phone to and at Old Trafford recently," said the caller. Nothing wrong with that, said The Sweeper.

"Maybe he's looking for a job," the caller said. Good for him, said The Sweeper. The name of the official? We couldn't possibly say.

GIVE THE 2006 World Cup to England, The Sweeper says. Never mind that a South African or Moroccan tournament could be a force for good on that continent, that a Brazilian tournament would be a feast of fervour to behold, or that the Germans were promised it.

Not everyone is patriotic as us, however. Ken Smeeton, a Nottingham Evening Post reader, wrote to the paper last week, stating: "Amidst all the hullabaloo of Manchester United competing in Brazil to enhance Britain's hope of hosting the 2006 World Cup, hasn't something been overlooked or ignored?

"The existing gridlock demonstrates that our roads are congested to the point of near immobility. If the World Cup is held in Britain, the vast amount of extra traffic taking to the roads would mean chaos.

"I think the European countries being linked to the tournament are large enough to cope, so would it not be more sensible to hold the competition across the Channel.?"

Well said, sir.

BRITISH AIRWAYS provided a private flight to take England's 2006 bid team to Zurich last Monday to present their case to Fifa, football's world governing body. Germany is one of England's main rivals for the tournament, which made it a little curious that a BA safety announcement on the plane (in English) was followed by one in German, despite there being no Germans on board.

MICHAEL OWEN showed how adorable he is in the airport lounge on the way back from Zurich. Asked by reporters whether he'd had a good meal after the bid presentation, he merely smiled, touched his chest, and let out a small belch. What a charmer.

SIR JACK HAYWARD, the wealthy chairman and owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers, has had a miniature bronze statue of Billy Wright, the legendary captain of the Fifties, stolen from his West Sussex home. The treasured piece is a replica of the 9ft statue that stands outside Molineux. Police have appealed for help and anyone with information has been asked to contact the man in charge of the investigation - one PC Graham Taylor. So much for the Watford job being a full-time task.

STOKE CITY fans have seen their side managed by five different men in two years and got something of a shock when they opened the match programme for the first match of the season last Saturday. In his column, the captain Phil Robinson had apparently written: "I feel very proud and privileged to be the new manager of Stoke City. There is a lot of work for myself and my new backroom staff before we can get this club how we would like it." My goodness, thought the fans. Whither Gary Megson, who we thought was in charge? Has a sixth manager in two years been installed in secret? No. It was just a case of the manager's column being printed twice. At least everyone's singing from the same hymn sheet.

OUTSIDE THE megastore at Old Trafford there's a gigantic poster advertising Manchester United's official magazine. "On Sale Now" screams a two-foot headline beneath a huge photo of the cover star, Roy Keane. The saga is obviously not over.

Don't dodge the draft. Send your contributions to The Sweeper.

By post:18th Floor, I Canada Sq, Canary Wharf, London. E14 5DL

By fax: 0171 293 2894

e-mail: sport@independent.co.uk

As You Were

As the new millennium approaches, The Sweeper gets all nostalgic and looks back each week at a different decade of the 20th century. Today, Sheffield United players emerging from the tunnel for their FA Cup semi- final replay against Burnley at Anfield in 1914. The crowd, with not an uncovered head in sight, saw Burnley win 1-0. Photograph: Hulton Getty

The Price Is Right

NOT PERHAPS the start he had in mind but, despite last week's pounds 16 donation to that worthy cause, Stanley Racing, The Sweeper isn't living in fear of relegation just yet. Draw opportunities look somewhat thinner on the ground this week-end, but a pounds 3 treble on Derby to draw with Middlesbrough; Wimbledon to draw with Coventry and Southampton to draw with Newcastle could yield a profit in excess of pounds 100. Derby, who defended well when drawing at Leeds last week, had their inability to pose a potent goal threat exposed by Arsenal on Tuesday, but face an easier task against visitors Middlesbrough who atoned for their dismal home defeat by Bradford by winning at Wimbledon in mid-week. Wimbledon, who that night confirmed the fears of many - that they will sorely miss Joe Kinnear this term - should nevertheless be able to hold Coventry to a draw at Selhurst Park. Despite their Moroccan signings, the Sky Blues have made a hash of their opening games. Finally Southampton, despite their 3-0 drubbing by Leeds on Wednesday, ought to be able to hold Newcastle - whose manager, Rudd Gullit, seems to be making an early bid for worst manager of the 21st century - to a draw at home.

WIN pounds 100 A WEEK TREBLE CHANCE

pounds 3 treble with Coral: Derby to draw with Middlesbrough (9-4); Wimbledon to draw with Coventry (12-5); Southampton to draw with Newcastle (9-4).

OPENING BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 84.

BALANCE: -pounds 16.

TODAY'S BET: pounds 3 STAKED.

Fan Power

Your chance to reclaim the game

THURSDAY SAW the launch of the Coalition of Football Supporters, a new campaigning organisation bringing together existing fans' groups to form a stronger, united body.

CoFS consists of 102 supporters organisations. It aims to boost that number to 150 by the time it meets with the football Task Force on 25 August to discuss its charter, which will be formally presented to David Mellor. Any fans interested in having a say in how the game is run should contact CoFS for more information.

The CoFS charter consists of the following six main aims:

The establishment of an independent regulator for football (to ensure the implementation of the other aims).

The redistribution of wealth, including TV income, within football.

Controls over the activities of plcs running football clubs.

Controls over the type of people who are allowed to own football clubs.

Ticket prices being pegged at levels which keep the game accessible to all fans.

The democratisation of football to give supporters a voice.

Contact the FSA and CoFS

Address: PO Box 11, Liverpool, L26 1XP

Telephone: 0151 737 2385

Web: www.fsa.org.uk

http://www.cofs.co.uk

Unsung Heroes

No 2

FRANCIS BENALI: Think of a long-standing player at Southampton and the name Le Tissier springs more easily to mind than Benali. It's the 30-year- old defender, however, rather than the 30-year-old Guernseyman, who has been at the club for the longer time.

Franny arrived at The Dell as a schoolboy international striker (yes, striker) in the Eighties and has since made himself a local hero with his "committed" performances at left-back. Not one of his 11 sending-offs (nor many of his yellow cards) can really be put down to malicious intent, according to the fans.

Benali must have been doing something right because he has been played by all seven managers who have been at the helm since he arrived and has never been put on the transfer list. Perhaps his finest moment came at The Dell at around 4.18pm on Saturday 13 December 1997, when Franny rose at the edge of Leicester's box to meet a cross with a powerful header. That successful effort was, and remains, his only competitive goal in more than 225 performances.

Benali also owns an Indian restaurant in Southampton, and has endeared himself to supporters by hosting charity nights there, using his fellow Saints as waiters. No longer a Freddie Mercury-a-like after shaving off his dodgy tash, Franny is like to remain a fixture in the Great Escapists for a while to come.

Do you have an unsung hero to recommend? A "one club for life" player? An octogenarian groundsman? A hospital radio team? A tea lady extraordinaire? Let us know.

Sign Of The Times

From The Sweeper's autograph collection from the late 1970s and early '80s. Who are they?

The Cup-winning side they played for has had a disproportionate number of England managers in charge. Both men could arguably be called escapists and shared a victory with Pele and Sylvester Stallone.

Answers next week. Last week: Newport County's John Aldridge and Gary Plumley.

Just Imagine...

...what a Premiership manager would say when asked by the authorities why he's kept pounds 40,000 from a Russian agent in a safe for a year without telling them.

"I didn't want it earning interest in some capitalist bank account, did I?"

"Roy Keane likes to have his week's wages in cash occasionally."

"I knew there'd be an autobiography in the offing and my childhood was hardly going to secure two serialisations, was it?"

For next week, The Sweeper invites suggestions on excuses Alan Shearer can make next time he's penalised. Addresses as above.

In T'net

Found on the Web: A BBC archive.

THE BEEB may have given away most of its sporting jewels but the Corporation has certainly invested some money in its web pages. The best aspect of the comprehensive football site is a search section for archive reports in text, audio and (occasionally) video formats.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sport/football/default.htm

Read Of The Week

MANAGING MY LIFE - MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY by Alex Ferguson with Hugh McIlvanney; Hodder & Stoughton, hardback, pounds 18.99

THE LONG-AWAITED autobiography of the Manchester United manager, written in conjunction with Hugh McIlvanney, the Scottish sports journalist, gives a fascinating insight into Sir Alex's life. Although his playing career and achievements with Aberdeen are featured, the main focus is on the philosophy and methods behind United's renaissance. Ferguson reveals how he dismantled a divided and drink-sodden dressing-room, nurtured his youngsters, galvanised Cantona, argued with just about everybody and ultimately led his team to the treble.

Courtesy of Sportspages Bookshops. 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London. 0171-240-9604; & St Ann's Square, Manchester. 0161-832-8530. Website: www.sportspages.co.uk

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