Football: The Sweeper

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The Independent Online
Biting the bullet is Da Silva's big fear

Song Sheet

BRIGHTON

The Seagulls supporters' glee at merely being in the league

Brighton,

Brighton And Hove,

We are the B&H-A-F-C,

And we lead you all,

Whoever you may be,

And we lead you all in Division Three.

Tune: Lord Of The Dance

THE PAST week has shown that passions run deep in British football, but at least supporters have not yet resorted to kidnapping coaches, as happened in South Africa on Wednesday. "It was a scary situation," Walter da Silva, the Brazilian coach of the Premier League side, Swallows, said after being abducted by two men, who pushed him into the back seat of a car and told him they were going to shoot him if he didn't keep quiet.

Da Silva said that during his ordeal his assailants forced him to phone two of his technical assistants (as Swallows began playing against Bush Bucks) and told them to leave the game. They did.

His players decided to carry on, however, and, after falling 1-0 behind, scored an equaliser after Da Silva had phoned again to say that he had been released in a shopping centre car park. No arrests have yet been made, although the police have opened an abduction and attempted hijacking investigation.

Da Silva has said that he thinks his abductors, who stole pounds 160 from him, are fans who were disillusioned with his coaching techniques. His team have lost but two of their 10 games since he took over but he had already received death threats. "When I lose they're coming like a mob and want to kill me," Da Silva said. "I feel really uneasy. My life is at stake here. I feel like throwing in the towel."

SOUTH AFRICA is clearly a dangerous place and should not be awarded the 2006 World Cup. England, similarly, is a dangerous place, especially when its 2006 bid team insist on producing brochures such as The Stage is Set, their latest promotional missive.

The photo of Elton John in the introduction, is, quite frankly, frightening. While The Sweeper was the first to salute Elton's finest moment at Wembley - by leading the dancing in the rain as the syrupped superstar played "I'm Still Standing" at Live Aid in 1985 - using Elton's name and image to secure a major tournament is surely pushing things a bit.

The Stage is Set is factually inaccurate (it claims Alan Shearer scored from a free-kick in a night match at Old Trafford, something he didn't do), and full of tosh. One caption, which fills a third of the page, reads: "English clubs provide first-class media facilities," to which we can only reply "The Dell. Cramped. Wooden. Disaster waiting to happen."

Although Eric Cantona contributes the following gem - "Everything is beautiful about English football. The stadiums are beautiful, the atmosphere is beautiful, even the cops on horseback are beautiful" - the words of a former player, albeit an endearingly nutty French one, do not a World Cup make. Which only leaves Germany (where the public don't care), Brazil (Pele is against, so no chance) and Morocco, the only nation truly deserving of the competition.

As we will not tire of saying: "We're not ready, we are right. Allez Maroc!"

SCOTLAND NOT only won at Wembley on Wednesday but proved once again that their fans are in a class of their own. The Sweeper was fortunate enough, thanks to the appalling incompetence and general mismanagement of London Underground, to spend an hour and a half in the company of a section of the Tartan Army between Kings Cross and Wembley in midweek.

In the compartment were around 20 Scots and a small cell of Newcastle fans. In the coach on one side were around 30 vociferous Chelsea supporters and in the coach on the other a group wearing Millwall colours.

"You're shit and you know you are," was the opening gambit of the English. Not fazed, the Scots sang back "We're shit and we know we are." The English countered with "Two nil to the In-ger-land" and the Scots came back with "We're only here for the bevvy, and to have your women." When the Newcastle fans taunted with "There's only one Duncan Ferguson" the men in kilts, with recent form in mind, merely laughed.

It was only, however, when an England fan shouted "There's Headhunters and Millwall here, we'll do you when the train stops" that the Tartan Army played their trump card. Eyeing the baying throngs on either side of them, they gave out looks of pure pity, and, to the tune of "She'll be coming round the mountain", started singing "We're the best behaved supporters in the world."

IN THE Press matches that accompanied the Euro play-offs, England won 4-2 at Celtic Park (with The Independent's Glenn Moore as Man of the Match) and lost 3-1 when hosting the second leg at the reciprocally grand venue of Motspur Park, New Malden. Scotland were no doubt fired-up for the second leg by a note in their dressing room which read: "You're shit and you know you are." English wit, eh?

Fan Power

Your chance to reclaim the game

FOLLOWING THE less than convincing performance by England on Wednesday, the Football Supporters' Association can confirm that it will be running a Fans' Embassy in the Netherlands and Belgium next summer, providing advice and information for fans, by fans Details closer to the draw on 12 December.

The other news for the week is the prospect of Leeds, Manchester United and Manchester City fans joining up in a not-the-FA-Cup Sky Sports challenge cup next year. Fans' organisations have already written to the Football authorities asking what action they propose to take in applying their own rules, in this case about shareholders not having holdings worth more than 9.9 per cent in more than one club. Fans are also approaching the Office of Fair Trading to raise issues that were put forward in the case against Sky's original bid for Man Utd. It appears that the battle which we thought had been won once has to be fought again as Rupert Murdoch tries to achieve his aims through the back door.

Meanwhile the Task Force struggles on towards its final report. Bizarrely neither fairer distribution of TV and other revenue, nor media ownership of clubs is within its remit. This weekend sees a large meeting of the Coalition of Football Supporters, where many of these issues are to be addressed.

Football Supporters' Association: PO Box 11, Liverpool, L26 1XP. Tel: 0151 737 2385. Web: www.fsa.org.uk

Coalition of Football Supporters: Tel: 0113 237 4545. Web: www.cofs.co.uk

Unsung Heroes

No 16

JOHN WAYMAN: Referees are not usually classed as heroes, but The Sweeper has made an exception this week. This official is either completely dedicated to the beautiful game or is stark raving mad. He regularly takes charge of matches both in the leagues of Hertfordshire and at inter-county level, and last season officiated in more than 100 games - at the age of 80.

Originally from Portsmouth, John settled in Watford after the war and dedicated his leisure time primarily to football, being involved in clubs as a player, manager, physio and referee from local to county level. "He's a white-haired bloke and some people think he'll be too old to keep up with the game, but he does," John's wife, Joan, said. And does he get more than his fair share of abuse along the lines of, "Are you blind, ref?"

"Probably the majority of that comes in youth games, but not from the players, who have a great respect for him, but from the parents," Joan added: "But he just stops the game, tells them to quieten down, and then carries on."

A referee who is not afraid to show his sensitive side, John is often pained, according to his wife, when he has to show the red card. "He'll come in and say, `I had to send a lad off', and he'll be in tears. But that's just because he cares." John, who celebrated his 81st birthday on 8 November, shows few signs yet of hanging up his whistle. His birthday present from Joan was another pair of football boots.

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

20th Century Icons

As the new millennium approaches, The Sweeper celebrates football icons of the 20th century. Today Tom Finney, who signed for Preston in 1940, aged 18, and played 433 League games (scoring 187 goals) before retiring, aged 38, in 1960. He also made 76 appearances for England, demonstrating his versatility by starting 40 times on the right wing, 33 times as an outside-left and three times as a centre-forward. Here, at Stamford Bridge in 1956, Finney's challenge for the ball creates such a spray that the Chelsea defender (to his right) is almost completely obscured PA

The Price Is Right

ANOTHER WIN last week, albeit small, takes our unbeaten run to two. Here's hoping good things come in threes. Everton, an improved side this season, can match stiff opposition and hold Chelsea to a draw at Goodison Park today. Southampton are also enjoying a rare mid-table run and they can restrict Tottenham to a point at The Dell. Sunderland have made a blinding start, but their visitors today, Liverpool, are getting it together and can snatch a point at The Stadium Of Light. Watford could be held to a draw by Newcastle at Vicarage Road. On Monday the on-the- up Coventry can hold the on-the-slide Aston Villa to a draw at Highfield Road.

THE SWEEPER'S NET pounds 100 TREBLE CHANCE WAGER

Ten pounds 3 trebles with Stanley: Everton to draw with Chelsea (9-4); Southampton to draw with Tottenham (9-4); Sunderland to draw with Liverpool (9-4); Watford to draw with Newcastle (12-5); Coventry to draw with Aston Villa (9-4).

BALANCE: -pounds 58.30.

TODAY'S BET: pounds 30 STAKED.

Sign Of The Times

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

ONE OF these ovines is a Scot, as is his son, in two senses. The other is a Welshman, a rare bit of talent who broke his club's transfer record.

Answers next week. No correct answers arrived after last week, when the two signatures belonged to Luton Town's David Pleat and Raddy Antic. Those who received the earliest edition of the paper may have identified David Pleat and, errm ... David Pleat. Sorry.

Just Imagine...

... where the Scotland national side will spend next summer and what they'll be doing to fill their time.

n In a bar, playing cards and drinking until 6am. The same as England will be doing, then, if recent match preparations are anything to go by.

n In a pub, laughing as England are knocked out of Euro 2000 after being thrashed by Slovenia.

For next week, The Sweeper invites you to imagine, after the "playmaker problem" and the "left-sided problem", what problem England will have next. Addresses as above.

In T'net

Found on the Web: The Conference

OFFERING A comprehensive guide to England's fifth division, this site contains all the information you'd expect. As well as fixtures, results and attendance figures from the Nationwide Conference, the page offers detailed club-by-club profiles that include form tips, photos of grounds, travel information and even mileage charts. Apparently, Scarborough fans have the furthest to travel this season - 8,528 miles, if they attend all their team's away games.

Best of all, though, is the "Featured Websites" section. There is a comprehensive list of all the supporters' sites for each Conference club, and once a fortnight, the guide reviews one of the best. It is a new feature, but the quality of the sites included is high. One that stands out is Paranormal in the West Country, a Forest Green Rovers page. Named after a Julian Cope EP, it succeeds where our featured site fails, rising to the challenge of finding travelling fans somewhere to have a drink before the game.

www.confguide.com Simon Lelic

Read Of The Week

HELL RAZOR by Neil Ruddock with Dave Smith; Collins Willow, hardback, pounds 16.99

ONE SUSPECTS this autobiography will not be on Patrick Vieira's Christmas list, but this candid account of Ruddock's career is far better than the usual mundane collections of boozy stories and score-settling anecdotes. He does little to undermine his hard-man image but he reveals a degree of self-knowledge so often missing from this cynical money-making genre.

Ruddock's forthright views on Alan Sugar and Terry Venables are rather too prominent and there are probably too many tales chronicling his "hilarious" persecution of Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler and Jason McAteer, but Ruddock's passion and commitment constantly shine through. He emerges as someone with few regrets, but also a man haunted by the nagging doubt that he never quite fulfilled his full potential.

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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