Football: The Sweeper

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Horseplay a hurdle too far for Fox Izzet

Song Sheet


Praise for the benefactor cum saviour of Craven Cottage

He's rich,

He's squat,

He's got a corner shop,

Al Fayed, Al Fayed.

Tune: Traditional

SEAN TAYLOR, a Lottery-winning Leicester City supporter, has spent some of his winnings on a race horse, which he's named Izzet Muzzy in honour of the prolific young Fox.

"I was going to call him Marshall Ian [after the strapping but injury- prone defender]," Taylor said. "But I thought he'd be going lame all the time if I did that."

The jockeys who will ride Izzet Muzzy will be decked out in Leicester- esque blue-and-white silks, but the horse is unlikely to be inspired by his namesake. When the footballer and the animal met up recently for a photoshoot, the latter was asked if he'd mind hopping up for a couple of pictures. No can do, said Muzzy, of being asked to mount Izzet. And why not? A fear of horses, apparently.

IT'S GOOD to know that our elected representatives in the House of Commons take football seriously. Take Thursday lunchtime, for example, when the former Sports Minister, Tony Banks, took an hour out of his hectic schedule to attend a launch party in the House for Vialli - A Diary of His Season, the latest book by The Mirror's Harry Harris.

"Harry's a friend and Chelsea supporter," Mr Banks, an ardent Blue, said, before accepting a magnum of champagne from the author, emblazoned with the words "No 1 fan." Gazing wistfully at the Premiership trophy (which was also inexplicably present), Mr Banks added: "I attended every home match in the 1954-55 season when Chelsea last won the title and I don't want to die before we win it again."

There were also magnums for the (non-attending) Gianluca Vialli and the Chelsea chairman, Ken Bates. Bates' bottle was labelled "Chairman of the Millennium. Wembley Chairman. FA Councillor. Premier League Junta." The Sweeper can only agree it was an appropriate gift for the man who has overseen the new Wembley.

WHILE NO one can doubt that Harry Harris's book (pounds 17.99) is a must for all Stamford Bridge die-hards, The Sweeper takes exception to the fly- leaf's claims that the tome "lifts the lid on just how Vialli had shaped Chelsea into the country's most exciting team". Lifts the lid on the photocopier to reproduce some old newspaper cuttings more like. Of the many examples of cut-and-paste,we especially liked the following. An article in The Mirror, Monday 14 September 1998, read: "The call for Tore Andre Flo echoed around the Bridge but Luca Vialli cocked a deaf ear to the voice of the people." On page 54 of the book, the entry for Saturday 12 September 1998 reads: "The call for Flo reverberated around the Bridge, but Vialli cocked a deaf 'un to the voice of the people."

More ominous is the subtle airbrushing of history. In the book, the entry for Sunday 4 April notes how Ken Bates was adamant that he would not be influenced by the media over Graham Rix's conviction for sex offences. "The gutter press will not be allowed to run Chelsea football club," the entry says of what Bates wrote in one set of programme notes. Presumably he meant he would not be swayed by the likes of the following national newspaper editorial, printed on 27 March 1999. "The Chelsea bosses who yesterday backed Graham Rix [by saying he could keep his job after a prison sentence] are a disgrace. A disgrace to the Stamford Bridge club. A disgrace to football. A disgrace to the fans who pay their wages." There is no mention of that editorial in Vialli - A Diary of His Season, or indeed any entry at all for 27 March 1999. The editorial was in The Mirror, after all.

THE LEEDS United press office had an urgent announcement to make before the club's Uefa Cup match against Spartak Moscow on Thursday. Would members of the Fourth Estate please note that the young defender Woodgate's first name is spelt with an "a", and not an "o" as has been common? Apparently the misunderstanding arose because when a journalist asked the young defender some time ago, "Do you spell Jonathan with an `o' or and an `a'?" he replied "o", thinking the scribe was questioning the second letter rather than the seventh. One can only take solace that he didn't say "J".

TO ALL those Steve Bruce fans wanting more information about his new novel, Striker! and its sequels, Sweeper! and Defender!, you only have to wait one more week and we'll tell you all you need to know. Suspense. It's the name of the game.

n THE PHOTOGRAPH of Duncan Edwards used in the Icons feature a fortnight ago was taken in 1958, not 1953, as stated. Apologies for the error.

Fan Power

Your chance to reclaim the game

THE FOOTBALL Supporters' Association, having secured funding from the Government, is planning to run fans' Embassies during Euro 2000. Tomorrow's tournament draw will tell the FSA which towns the Embassies' advice and information service for the England fans will be operating in. Past Embassies have provided a useful service for fans of all nations.

Representatives from the FSA will be visiting Belgium and the Netherlands between 12-17 January to meet local authorities from the towns and cities hosting England games, plus police authorities, government bodies and local supporters' groups.

The FSA is currently recruiting a part-time Euro 2000 Embassy Planning Officer, partially thanks to Home Office funding. The FSA is, however, also looking for a main sponsorship partner to work in conjunction with the FSA in the run-up to Euro 2000 and during the tournament itself. Organisations wanting further information should contact the FSA via the main FSA number and address below.

Anyone wanting more information about the Planning Officer's position should also contact the Liverpool office (0151 737 2385) for more details about the job, or phone Paul Thomas. Tel: 07939 594 732.

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

Coalition of Football Supporters: Tel: 0113 237 4545. Web:

Unsung Heroes

No 19

CHRIS MARSH: Walsall's longest-serving player has been with the club since signing on trainee terms in July 1988, aged 18. He has remained with the Midlands minnows through thick and thin and now that the Saddlers have reached the dizzy heights of the First Division, he faces perhaps his toughest task to date in helping to keep them there. Although Walsall started the season brightly, they are currently in the relegation zone and will need to find some consistency to avoid the drop. A good FA Cup run (starting against Gillingham today) will no doubt boost confidence, but it could also be seen as a distraction to a side that need to concentrate on their League form.

Marsh, the club captain and generally regarded as the fans' favourite, usually plays on the right side of defence, is an excellent marker, and scored perhaps his most important goal in last season's promotion game against Oldham. He made his 450th appearance for Walsall a couple of weeks ago against Huddersfield and demonstrated how valuable he can be when providing a superb cross to the far post for Andy Rammell, who scored. The final result, 2-0 to Walsall, showed that the side are capable of living with the bigger sides.

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

ATTENTION: The Sweeper will begin a new series soon, entitled "Fan-did Camera", which will feature your football photographs. If you've snapped Dennis Bergkamp at Safeway or if you've got a shot of your dad face down in a cowpat; if you've had a curry with Francis Benali in Southampton, or snapped a group of nuns on the terraces, send us your pictures.

20th Century Icons

As the new millennium approaches, The Sweeper celebrates football icons of the 20th century. Today, Stanley Matthews (above, standing) before a farewell match between a Stanley Matthews XI and a World XI at Stoke's Victoria Ground. Seated (from left) are Cliff Jones, Alan Gilzean and Jimmy Greaves. The match took place in 1965, the year Sir Stanley was knighted for services to football. As the FA Cup gets underway in earnest today, one can only wish that this season's tournament would end as the "Matthews Final" of 1953 ended. Sir Stanley's inspirational display for Blackpool helped his team come from 3-1 behind (against Bolton, with 20 minutes to play) to snatch a legendary 4-3 victory Hulton Getty

The Price Is Right

BETTING ON "bankers" is not often wise, but then we're not often wise. This week we're backing nine strongly-fancied teams to go through in 90 minutes and then taking a chance that at least two of our five draw selections come up. Perming the doubles from those five draw selections gives you 10 bets, therefore each pounds 2 bet is an 11-fold accumulator. Some might say that such a wager is madness. We prefer to think of it as an embodiment of the romance of the Cup.



10 x pounds 2 11-fold accumulators (9 "bankers" plus 2 draws permed from 5 selections) with Coral: Bankers: Derby to beat Burnley (2-5); Everton to beat Exeter (2-5); Fulham to beat Luton (2-5); Leicester to beat Hereford (2-7); Chelsea to beat Hull (2-7); Sunderland to beat Portsmouth (2-9); Man City to beat Chester (2-5); Leeds to beat Port Vale (1-5); Arsenal to beat Blackpool (1-9). Draws: Crewe to draw with Bradford (9-4); Norwich to draw with Coventry (9-4); Huddersfield to draw with Liverpool (9-4); Tottenham to draw with Newcastle (9-4); Ipswich to draw with Southampton (11-5).

Sign Of The Times

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

THE MAINE attraction of one of this pair was that he became the country's most expensive player. The other went on to be a Sky Blue and played for Burnley, and briefly in the Orient.

Answers next week. Last week's signatures belonged to Birmingham City's Alan Curbishley and Mark Dennis, but we received no correct answers. The prize this week, as usual, is entry to the season's-end draw (open to all published Sweeper contributors) for a priceless double-volume 1,500- page, original copy of England's 2006 World Cup bid prospectus.

Just Imagine...

... which football ground is most suitable for conversion into an Olympic arena and why.

n The Dell. Nothing athletic happens there.

n St James's Park or Ewood Park, because no matter how much money you promise to spend there, you're inevitably left waiting for results.

For next week, The Sweeper invites you to imagine who will drive David Beckham to work from now on and in what car. Addresses as above.

In T'net

Found on the Web: Morocco 2006

IT TOOK a while for Morocco to catch up in the bidding process for the race to stage the 2006 World Cup and the English and German bid teams were able to steal a march in terms of PR. They also launched their own extensive web sites a long time ago. The Moroccan site is now on line and contains everything you'd expect - plaudits from the King, updates on campaign news, a supporters' noticeboard and details of the stadiums that would be used to stage the tournament. Most of the latter, of course, are merely designs, but there's no doubt that Morocco intends to built some impressive arenas if the powers-that-be choose the minnows over the money-makers. The only drawback of the site is that it frequently appears to break down. Not a good omen, but its designers push on none the less, much like the bid team.

Read Of The Week

London Fields - A Journey Through Football's Metroland by Charlie Connelly (Mainstream, paperback, pounds 9.99).

IN THIS engaging book, Connelly uses the capital's clubs in the 1998- 99 season as a case study for the current state of English football at the end of the century. He resisted the temptation to focus primarily on the big clubs and instead spends time with a cornucopia of non-league, women's and Sunday teams and analyses the enduring vibrancy and passion for the game at grass-roots level. Although there are funny and surreal episodes on his journey, his main theme is the progress of the FA Cup from the preliminary round to the final. Here, Connelly's disenchantment with a tournament he believes to have lost all credibility is really evident and he concludes with a heartfelt attack on the crass incompetence of the FA. By highlighting the crisis facing London's semi-professional clubs (whose pitches are being devoured by developers) and the naked self- interest and indifference of the elite clubs, the book exposes a game built on creaking foundations.

Courtesy of Sportspages bookshops, 94-96 Charing Cross Road, London (0171 240 9604); & St Ann's Square, Manchester (0161 832 8530).