Football: The Sweeper

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J-League target for Villa's Gregory

JUST WHEN we were all thinking that John Gregory was deliberately striking a blow for England during these pro-foreigner days of the Premiership by picking a team made up exclusively of Englishmen, another reason for the Aston Villa manager's selection policy has revealed itself - he's a uniformity freak.

The sense of harmony that runs through John Gregory's team also runs through his family - everyone in it has the same initials. His dad, Jack Gregory, a former West Ham and Scunthorpe player, started it when he married his mother, Jean. His sisters are called Jeanette and Janice. And John Gregory's own children? Joe, Jason and the twins Jenny and Jimmy.

As a boy John Charles Gregory - he was named after the Welsh legend - supported Tottenham Hotspur where it goes without saying that his hero was Jimmy Greaves. Oh yes, and his first job in management - an unfortunate experience at Portsmouth - was under the chairmanship of the late Jim Gregory.

WHILE CHELSEA'S preference for exotic foreign delights is well known, chairman Ken Bates obviously holds rare, beautiful and home grown specimens in lower regard. Why else would he want to concrete over the habitat of the Dactylorchis Fuchsii, (left) which, despite its English name - Common Spotted Orchid - is actually rather rare?

Part of Bates' development plans for Chelsea include building a footway from Chelsea Village to West Brompton tube station, along a route designated as being of high importance for wildlife in Hammersmith and Fulham.

According the London Wildlife Trust, should the path be built, "the loss of this site will seriously damage the nature conservation value of this part of London, an area that is already impoverished for wildlife."

Spokesman Pete Guest, who said the Trust intend to oppose planning permission for the path, added: "We find it astonishing that the only significant natural habitat in the locality is regarded with such disdain by Chelsea Football Club."

Now is perhaps not the time to point out that Chelsea Football Club - with their astronomical ticket pricing policy alone - have long shown a similar disdain for their own fans, so there is little hope of them backing down unless forced.

"We're not talking about just one plant but a whole wildlife habitat," said Guest, explaining why it is not possibly simply to move the group of endangered species to another home.

"The question is where can you transfer it to? There's nowhere to put it and it would be lost."

Perhaps someone should explain to Bates that although varieties such as Laudrupus Homesickus can be imported, uprooted and shipped out again within months, the same is not so true of other fragile organisms.

NOW WE know where Lee Hughes, the country's leading goal-scorer, gets his cheek from in front of goal. It comes from a long line of die-hard Baggies fans, not the least of which is his grandfather Albert, who, according to the Birmingham Evening Mail created something of a stir himself once on The Hawthorns pitch. Ginger-haired, just like his grandson, Albert lost half a leg when he stepped on a land mine during the Second World War while fighting with the Black Watch in Italy. The story goes that shortly after the war, while watching an international between England and Wales at the Hawthorns, he became so appalled with the efforts of the home team, which included Stanley Matthews, that at half-time he clambered over the terracing, removed his wooden leg and planted it in the pitch, as if to say: "Play with this one, you couldn't do any worse with it."

PREVIOUS HISTORY of physical confrontations involving the referee Paul Alcock continue to surface. Carrying on from the Paolo Di Canio, Frank Sinclair and Wayne Biggins experiences is one involving Stewart Houston, Arsenal's former assistant manager. In a match at Highbury during Houston's time there, Paul Alcock again found himself on the receiving end even though he was only the fourth official. Graham Poll was the referee and had controversially denied Arsenal a penalty when at the game's conclusion Alcock returned to the officials' dressing-room complaining that he had been assaulted by Houston, whom, apparently, had said he had "kneed me up the arse." Houston, who denied the assault, was nevertheless forced to write a letter of apology over the incident to the Football Association.

THE SIGHT of the referee waiting for the OK from the man from Sky before he can blow the whistle for the start of a televised game is, sadly, an all too familiar sight at football grounds nowadays. But in the light of the satellite company's proposed takeover of Manchester United it struck one as particularly incongruous last Tuesday when the referee had to wait for permission, as usual, to start Liverpool's televised Worthington Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur. So that's what it has come down to - Manchester United telling Liverpool when they can kick off a match at Anfield.

MANCHESTER CITY fans have been enjoying a little humour at the expense of their former misfit-now-reject Lee Bradbury following his transfer to Crystal Palace. The joke goes something like this: Why is Lee Bradbury the only player in English football with two silent R's in his surname? Answer: Because he was bought for pounds 3.5m from Portsmouth and sold for pounds 1.5m. Bad buy. Geddit?

As You Were

KENNETH MATHIESON DALGLISH started his professional career as a 16-year-old in 1967, moving to Liverpool in 1977. From the late Seventies (main picture) onwards, the young Scot was an integral part of the Reds side that dominated English football. Management came and went, and he has now (inset) broadened his horizons to ownership, as a co-bid for Celtic this week showed.

The price is right

SWEEPER'S GILT-EDGED SECURITIES

THE SWEEPER is not a bad loser. Roberto Carlos Sosa, Andy Booth, and the entire Liverpool defence: bastards the lot of you. But enough of last week's tragedies. Roma look the banker bet of the season to beat the injury-plagued Juventus at the Olympic Stadium tomorrow. The superb Marco Delvecchio can score first in what could be a 2-1 win.

n SATURDAY LIBERO WAGERS

(10 x 50p trebles with Stanley): Charlton to draw with Middlesbrough (9-4); Liverpool to draw with Leeds (12-5); Manchester United to beat Blackburn (2-5); Newcastle to beat Sheffield Wednesday (8-13); West Ham to draw with Leicester (12-5).

Arsenal v Tottenham

Score: 1-1 & 2-2 (50p at 11-2, generally & 50p at 14-1, generally).

Newcastle v Sheffield Wednesday

First goal: Alan Shearer (pounds 1 at 9-2, William Hill).

n SUNDAY SKY MATCH

Coventry v Everton

Score: 1-1 (pounds 1 at 11-2, generally).

First goal: Duncan Ferguson (pounds 1 at 13-2, William Hill).

n SUNDAY C4 ITALIAN JOB

Roma v Juventus

Result: Roma to win (pounds 5 at 8-5, Stanley).

Score: 2-1 (pounds 1 at 9-1 William Hill & Stanley).

First goal: Marco Delvecchio (pounds 1 at 6-1, William Hill).

n MONDAY SKY MATCH

Nottingham Forest v Derby

Score: 1-1 (pounds 1 at 11-2 generally).

First goal: Pierre Van Hoojdonk (pounds 1 at 11-2 Stanley).

ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 101.68!

TODAY'S BETS: pounds 19.62 (including pounds 1.62 tax paid on).

ON THE BOARD

Name: Theo Paphitis.

Position: Chairman, Millwall Football Club.

Form: Knickers, among other things. Paphitis has a track record in turning round struggling companies including Rymans, the stationary chain, and La Senza and Contessa, the lingerie firms.

Big ideas: Has presided over a shake-up at the New Den that has included the sponsorship deal with L!VE TV that saw his players run out with "The Weather In Norwegian" across their chests. Some other prudent financial management and cost-cutting has streamlined the company into a more efficient business but other problems remain, notably the spectre of hooliganism. After the riot following the match with Manchester City earlier in the season, Paphitis commented: "If a handful of youngsters going on the pitch intimidate Joe Royle's players, they should go back to kindergarten." Not perhaps, the most tactful of statements after a pitch invasion, and illustrative perhaps of how much work there is still to do. Whether Paphitis will quit while ahead or stick to his task remains to be seen.

MY TEAM

Alison king

Liverpool

Actress in Sky's Dream Team, otherwise known as the chairman's wife, Lynda Block

"My older brother supported Liverpool as I grew up. In those days I was a girlie girl who didn't understand football but I got my boyfriend to explain it all to me. I went to the Arsenal game earlier this season and I met Shaggy and some of the other players and was well star-struck. I've met actors and famous people like that but I've never been start struck like that meeting Macca, and the kid Owen and David James. No one seems to like James but I do. My favourite has to be McManaman and the work he does with his little legs."

IN T'NET

Found on the Web: A variety of reasons why Manchester United fans do not want their club to be sold to BSkyB.

The web site of the Independent Manchester United Supporters' Association carries not only news articles and updates on the campaign to stop the takeover, but a library of material citing reasons it feels make Rupert Murdoch an inappropriate patron for their club. Not to be outdone in the commercial opportunity stakes by the Digger, IMUSA also give you the chance to buy T-shirts in a variety of sizes and colours.

http://www.imusa.org/library/lobby.htm

Seen But Not Bought

HAND-PAINTED personalised football Gnomes. Widely advertised in football magazines and small ads columns, the Gnomes can be bought with an extraordinary range of hair colours and with myriad facial hair arrangements, not to mention the team colours of any side in the world at all. Hand cast from cement, the Gnomes are 10.5in tall and are tastefully mounted on a felt base. At just pounds 29.99 each, who could possibly hesitate before phoning and ordering? A sane person, perhaps?

They're Not All Dennis Bergkamp

Unsung foreign

legionnaires No 14

GEORGE KULCSAR: The Australian midfielder joined QPR from Bradford in March last year on a three year contract in a deal that will be worth up to pounds 250,000 depending on appearances. The 6ft 2in 31-year-old was born in Budapest, Hungary, but his family emigrated to Australia when he was six. Kulcsar played junior and semi-professional football in the Antipodes for several years before making a big move in 1992 to Antwerp in Belgium, where he remained until moving to Yorkshire in 1997. "Rangers have a squad full of quality players and hopefully it is just a case of finding the right blend," he said somewhat optimistically upon his arrival in West London. Has been capped on several occasions by his country, another side full of quality players.

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