WITH THE Archbishop of Canterbury numbered among their friends, it cannot be for want of divine intervention that Yeovil Town narrowly failed to secure a place in the fourth round of the FA Cup this week - even if their goalkeeper has no doubt been asking for forgiveness ever since his extra-time gaffe which sent Cardiff City through.
The Archbishop is the latest in a long line of leading public figures, including the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who have agreed to be interviewed for the Conference club's programme - in fact, their reserve team programme. Which must be akin to Yeovil signing Ronaldo and sticking him in the stiffs.
The reason is that Yeovil's new programme editor, Greg Tesser, does not have control, as yet, of the first-team programme. "The first team programme, for the time being, is still produced in the way it has been for years. But we've got a brand new super-duper reserve team programme and as it's completely compiled by me I thought I'd give it a bit of whiz-bang with these pieces, even though we only have 180-200 people watching the games.
"It all started at the time of the General Election, when I wrote to Tony Blair and asked him if he was willing to do a Q & A on his love of football. The next thing Alistair Campbell contacted me and it all went from there.
"Then I thought, `I'll write to Prince Philip - he can only say no', and I came home one day and found a message on the answering machine from Buckingham Palace saying he was happy to do it. The same thing with Jack Straw and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
"I've also written to William Hague and had a reply from his diary secretary saying he'll be contacting me directly. Kenneth Clarke and Mohammed Al Fayed both said `no' and John Major didn't reply, otherwise the `yeses' have been quite good."
In his piece, the Archbishop deplored the escalating cost of watching football, which, he said, is "no longer within the reach of the average family, I am concerned about this."
SINCE THE proverbial hit the fan with the cash-for-votes scandal, it has not only been the chairman and chief executive of the Football Association who have had their reputations tarnished. In expressing serious misgivings now about the country's ability to secure the 2006 World Cup finals, Don Howe, the former England coach, has attacked another member of the old guard, Graham Kelly's former deputy, Pat Smith.
"My own experiences at the FA as technical coordinator on the youth side before Howard Wilkinson arrived were fascinating, revealing but also worrying," Howe writes in his column for the Birmingham Sports Argus. "While I never had any trouble with Graham Kelly it was always much more difficult with his assistant Pat Smith, who has since retired.
"While Kelly would nearly always give me the go-ahead to arrange Under- 18 and Under-16 England matches at various venues throughout the country, it was a different story with Pat. Her reaction was always: `You will have to ask the committee first.'
"I was left with the feeling that if I had not acted positively, everything might have been left for months. It has sadly been the view of many people dealing with our FA. Nobody ever seemed to get a direct answer from them."
And Howe also added: "How it [the cash-for-votes scandal] is going to affect England's hopes of winning the votes for the 2006 World Cup, does not bear thinking about."
SEAN WRIGHT-PHILLIPS appears to be following in his stepfather's footsteps. Away from the intense scrutiny of London, Ian Wright's step-son is making excellent progress at Maine Road -- thank goodness someone is making progress at Maine Road. Though only just turned 17, Wright-Phillips has already broken into the reserve team and made his second substitute appearance for them at The Hawthorns on Thursday. "He plays up front wide right," said Asa Hartford, the reserve team coach. "He's only a small lad but he's got an eye for goal. For a first-year YTS lad to come through to the reserves, he's done well enough."
SLAVEN BILIC has Bristol's boys in blue to thank for not wrecking his FA Cup dream and also that of Merseyside's own boys in blue.
The Everton defender was fast asleep when he had his car broken into at the team's hotel on the eve of their third round tie at Ashton Gate, but the West Country constabulary declined to disturb him - instead they roused club the press officer at 3am.
A wideawake Bilic was later on his guard against intruders in a 2-0 win. It's a wonder the Croatian can sleep at all after what he did to another boy in blue in the World Cup semi-finals.
GERMANY IS at least one country Manchester United can safely expect no competition from in their desire to sign Zinedine Zidane, should the newly elected European Footballer of the Year choose to leave Juventus next summer following the departure of the club's coach, Marcello Lippi.
The man who secured for France the World Cup with his match-winning brace against Brazil last summer was, not surprisingly, a runaway winner of the award for the best footballer in the world last year in the magazine France Football, polling nearly four times as many votes as second-placed Davor Suker of Croatia and topping most country's list of five nominees, including England's. And Germany's? He didn't even figure among their five.
As You Were
IS THIS (main picture, above) what could happen to Sky TV in the event that the station loses the landmark court case - fought jointly with the Premier League and the BBC - against the Office of Fair Trading, that started this week? Is this the kind of thing we can expect to see on Sky if the judge rules that current football television deals are illegal and Sky's grip on the game is loosened? Is this a snapshot from A Social Evening with Jimmy Hill, the innovative new chat show where the nation's favourite ex-Coventry and Fulham player called Hill takes the loss of football from his new employer's channel on the chin and hosts a different kind of entertainment instead? Don't be silly. It's Jimmy (for some strange reason) at the opening of Walsall FC's social club in 1969.
The price is right
OVER A nifty (pounds 50) up after beeswax (tax), with an Ayrton Senna's (tenner's) worth of ante-post bets in the locker, and a 17-1 treble and two winning singles producing a 100 per cent strike rate last week. Let's face it, The Price Is Right has got more going for it in the wealth creation department than Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Today's treble comprises Chelsea, bankers to beat Coventry at the Bridge, West Ham, who can beat The Owls at Upton Park and the in-form Wimbledon to hold Spurs to a draw at White Hart Lane. Struggling Charlton may be held to a draw by the out- of-sorts Newcastle at The Valley tomorrow, while Bologna's tight defence may hold Ronaldo and Internazionale to a draw on (Channel) 4. Finally, on Monday, Aston Villa should see off Everton at Villa Park.
n LIBERO WAGERS
(pounds 4.75 treble with Ladbrokes): Chelsea to beat Coventry (2-5); Tottenham to draw with Wimbledon (9-4); West Ham to beat Sheffield Wednesday (8- 11).
(Return pounds 37.33).
n SUNDAY SKY MATCH
Charlton v Newcastle
Draw (pounds 2, 9-4, Ladbrokes, Stanley & Tote).
n SUNDAY C4 ITALIAN JOB
Bologna v Internazionale
Draw (pounds 2, 2-1, William Hill).
n MONDAY SKY MATCH
Aston Villa v Everton
Aston Villa (pounds 3.25, 8-13, Stanley).
ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.
CURRENT KITTY: pounds 153.05!
TODAY'S BETS: pounds 13.08 (including pounds 1.08 tax paid on).
Where in the World?
FOLLOWING UEFA'S assertion yesterday that the Continent is the driving force in world football, here's a look at the world rankings as they would stand with no European sides.
WORLD RANKINGS EXCLUDING EUROPEAN COUNTRIES
Actual world ranking
11 BRAZIL 1
12 ARGENTINA 5 13 MEXICO 10 14 MOROCCO 13
15 CHILE 16
16 SOUTH KOREA 17
17 JAPAN 20
18 TUNISIA 21
19 UNITED STATES 23
10 KUWAIT 24
11 PARAGUAY 25
12 SOUTH AFRICA 26
13 IRAN 27
14 EGYPT 28
15 ZAMBIA 29
16 SAUDI ARABIA 30
17 JAMAICA 33
18 COLOMBIA 34
19 CHINA 37
20 AUSTRALIA 39
Sky Sports football presenter
"This time last year I remember thinking `I wonder what it would be like to support a team that win all the time?' and we won seven in a row. I'm wondering the same now. I don't think we're far from being a half-decent side. When Huckerby [scorer of two hat-tricks in two games] is feeling confident he's very good. I saw Coventry through the great Jimmy Hill era, from the Third division to First, but obviously the 1987 FA Cup final [beating Tottenham] was very special. Reaching the quarters, I thought `that'll do.' Then I watched the semi on Ceefax - there was no live football. Winning, well that was fantastic."
Found on the Web: The football statistical archive.
On this enormous site, you can find (among many other things), every English league table since 1888, details of every FA Cup final and League Cup final since 1872 and 1961 respectively, leading goalscorers from every division in the country for every season since 1889 and a comprehensive guide to similar non-League records. Not only that, but a bit of searching within the site will take you to similar archives of numerous other countries and records of just about every international match ever played.
Seen But Not Bought
For Nottingham Forest fans wanting to present Ron Atkinson with a welcoming gift, what better than a NFFC Luxury Leather Wallet, available for pounds 16.99? Unlike the club, the wallet is available only in the black, but should still give Big Ron some extra storage space in which to keep the cash he'll be paid to oversee relegation. Rumours that the Forest board each own one but never open them have not been confirmed.
They're Not All Dennis Bergkamp
legionnaires No 22
VICTOR SEGURA: The 25-year-old Spanish Under-21 international started his career in his home country with Lleida, before moving on to Logrones, Palamos and Real Zaragoza. In 1997, spurning offers to remain in Spain, he swapped the laid-back lifestyle of warm winters and sunny beaches for the jewel of East Anglia, Norwich. Having spent a pre-season spell with the Canaries, the defender took the opportunity of a free Bosman transfer and signed a two-year contract. Segura has what could be called a "robust" method of keeping attackers at bay, and even his own club's profile of the player says he makes "spectacular challenges" at times and has invoked the wrath of many a referee for his decidedly "Spanish tackling style." Segura is hoping to regain a regular place in his favoured central position at the back.Reuse content