Football: The Sweeper

Conference rolls in untold riches
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`Crede signo' Believe in the club

... and a suggested update

`Signo yo-yo in optimus ad finitum'

FOOTBALL'S WAGE spiral has arrived in non-League football, where part-time players can now earn more than their full-time Nationwide League counterparts, according to an agent who deals with primarily with players outside the elite.

"I had a player recently out of contract with a Third Division side," said David Davies, who is no relation of the newsreader-turned-FA executive director. "We touted him about and offers came in from other Third Division sides of pounds 250, pounds 300, pounds 350 per week. The best offer we had came from the Conference." The player moved and is earning around pounds 400 a week now. "That situation [of non-League clubs offering higher pay] has happened twice in the last week," Davies added. "It seems that football is getting so fashionable that local businessmen are saying `I'll put my money into football rather than buy another Rolls'."

Increasingly, Second and Third Division clubs are finding the harsh financial realities of professional football too much to bear and are offering more realistic `There's no more money, take it or leave it' deals to their staff. The lure of League status is still driving the part-timers to splash out, however. "Conference clubs expect their players to be do a lot," one non-League club secretary told The Sweeper. "They work in normal jobs but we still expect them to be at our beck and call." He said that pounds 250 a week was a standard wage, but pounds 400 was not unusual.

The Sweeper heard a whisper that even some Rymans Premier League clubs were getting in on the "chase the dream" wages act. "I'm not saying yea or nay to that," Ray Cross, the chairman of the mighty Canvey Island, said. "We do what we have to do to make ourselves successful." All you Italians looking for a retirement option should forget the Kings Road and head for Essex, then. Then again, maybe not.

"IN THESE bleak times for our players in international football you might want to give attention to the high regard in which one British player, at least, is held in Europe," wrote Colm Kerrigan, of Stratford, London, to The Sweeper this week in the aftermath of the recent round of Euro 2000 qualifiers. Enclosed was an interview with the Juventus's president, Giampiero Boniperti, from last Saturday's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Shuddering at the cost of buying and paying players such as Christian Vieri and Alessandro Del Piero and pondering how much one would need to pay these day to employ men such as Platini, Maradona, Di Stefano and even Pele, Boniperti said: "I would go to Tierra Del Fuego to fetch a centre-forward like John Charles and carry him here on my shoulder." The legendary former Leeds striker spent five years in Turin.

PETER SHILTON has finally been revealed as the deep thinker The Sweeper always knew he was. "We slumped on the benches around the dressing-room, had a beer or two and the odd glass of champagne," the goalkeeper told the Nottingham Evening Post this week, describing the day that Forest won the 1978 League title. The newspaper is celebrating Brian Clough's reign at the club ahead of tomorrow's renaming of a City Ground stand in Big Mouth's honour. Shilton added, of the 1978 triumph: "We climbed on to the coach, waved at the fans and went home. It was so subdued. That's because we wanted to appreciate what we'd done in a proper way. We sat and thought about the enormity of it and the effort it had taken."

IT WAS alarming to witness the baying hordes outside White Hart Lane before Spurs' Uefa Cup match against Zimbru Chisinau, of Moldova, on Thursday. "Where's our tickets?" cried the queue-jumping hooligans, who proceeded to bang on the ticket window. "This is a shambles," they cried, despite the fact that they had been reassured that the start had been delayed and they would still get in. But enough of the Press. The thousands of fans lined up politely and in silence.

"NUMBER ONE, Denis Romanenco. Number three, Konstantin Kulik. Number five, Andrei Telesnenco," the Tottenham spokesman said, stopping to clarify spellings as he read the Zimbru team sheet to the Press before the match on Thursday. A photocopying hitch meant that the line-ups were not available for the waiting media on time and thus the spokesman was struggling to read out all the names on the list for the journalists to file.

"Number six, Valeriu Catinsus. Number seven, Rusian Ghilazev," he added, before giving up in exasperation. "Sod it," he said. "With names like this lot, I'll just pin it on the wall."

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, the defining moment in British football in the 60s. No, it's nothing to do with the World Cup - anyone can win it playing at home, just look at France last year. And no, it's nothing to do with a team from the North- west putting a (Sir) Matt finish to their season. It is, of course, Steve Chalmers' 1967 European Cup final-winning goal for Celtic against Internazionale in Lisbon. The Bhoys completed a never-replicated quadruple that year, adding the league and two domestic cups to their European prize


Four pounds 4 trebles with Ladbrokes: Derby to draw with Sunderland (9-4); Southampton to draw with Arsenal (5-2); Tottenham to draw with Coventry (12-5); Everton to draw with West Ham (9-4).

OPENING BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 56.

BALANCE: -pounds 44.

TODAY'S BET: pounds 16 STAKED.

The Price Is Right

IN A tight game, the natural odds for a draw are no more than 2-1 - along with 2-1 the home win and 2-1 the away win - and the odds of three such games ending as draws are 26-1. But, as the bookmakers find it hard to lay the draw to their partisan customers, they shorten up the odds of a home or away win and ease the draw. Taking minimum draw odds of 11-5, punters who go for a draws treble are, week in week out, obtaining at least 31.8-1 about a 26-1 chance. This weekend, Derby may be held to a draw at home by Sunderland, Arsenal may be restricted to a point at The Dell, and Spurs and Everton may be held by Coventry and West Ham respectively.

In T'net

Found on t'Web: The Square Ball Leeds site

IF YOU'VE ever wanted to play the old arcade favourite asteroids using Leeds badges instead of space ships - as you do - then this is apparently the site to head for. Unfortunately when we visited yesterday the game was out of action, but we did get the chance to play the fiendishly addictive `LUFC checkers' instead. In the draughts-style game , the two sides are represented by the old and new Leeds badges. The Square Ball is nothing if not extensive, with all the news, match reports and stats you'd expect. The jokes are predictably mostly anti-Man Utd, but that's no bad thing. The "fans" articles' section - where you can find an impassioned defence of David Batty and a paean of praise to the new Kiwi defender, Danny Hay, amongst other things - is worth a read. The video archive is a nice idea (you're supposed to be able to access the last 10 goals scored, including the Partizan goals from midweek, according to the menu) but the link failed to work. Full marks to the site for scope and effort, but a few technical hitches could be ironed out. Be aware - you need to scroll down each page to find the text.

Read Of The Week

SURVIVAL OF THE FATTEST - 5; compiled and edited by David Jenkins, Judi Holly and Dave Thomas; Red Card, paperback, pounds 9.99

AS THE title suggests, this is the fifth appearance of this "alternative" review of the previous season. The concept is very simple - the editors of 87 fanzines (covering most of the clubs in the Premiership and Football League) contribute short pieces reviewing the 1998-99 season at their clubs. Obviously you read about your own club first, but the fact that it's all in typically acerbic fanzine style means that you can read the reviews of other clubs' seasons without fear that there'll be toadying accounts. Happily the pieces are presented in alphabetical order by fanzine title, so it's probably the only review of the season that doesn't start with Manchester United. wonderfully "dippable" and consistently entertaining.

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

Fan Power

Your chance to reclaim the game

THIS WEEK saw the leaking of one report from the Football Task Force, whilst the Premier League quoted facts and figures in its defence from another leaked document, based on research undertaken for the Task Force by the Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research. The football authorities have been a little shy about quoting the following facts from that document:

l 35 per cent of fans have seriously considered giving up live football because of the ticket prices.

l 81 per cent think there should be more rules about who can own clubs.

l 79 per cent are against major corporate interests like TV companies buying top clubs.

l 83 per cent think larger clubs should give more of their income to help the game as a whole.

l 62 per cent think that their club either `not often' or `hardly ever' takes fans' views fully into account when making major decisions.

l 86 per cent think there should be a public code of conduct for football. In response to who should enforce this code, 64 per cent backed the idea of a new independent body, compared to 24 per cent backing the FA and an underwhelming five per cent backing the Premier League. Go to the CoFS website for up-to-date information on current fans' campaigns.

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

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

Unsung Heroes

No 7

DAVID KELLY: The 33-year-old Tranmere striker gave Coventry fans a night they won't forget when he scored three of his side's five goals in Tuesday's 5-1 Worthington Cup win. The Republic of Ireland forward joined Rovers in summer 1997 from Sunderland and had previously played for Walsall, West Ham, Leicester, Newcastle and Wolves. Kelly's various clubs have spent more than pounds 3m on transfer fees for him through the years, but the player has repaid them with goals (175 in total) even while suffering recurrent injury problems. He made the 500th professional appearance of his career this season.

Although Rovers went off the pitch to a standing ovation against Coventry, life in the First Division this season has been hard and the club are in 23rd place. Only sad Crystal Palace are below them. "We haven't created many chances this season and as the gaffer says if you don't create chances you won't score," Kelly said perceptively this week. "We've been pretty average this season but it's up to us now to have the confidence to go on and play like this every week. My contract is up at the end of the season and it is very important for me to impress and score a few goals."

For his efforts against Coventry, Kelly had to struggle with referee Uriah Rennie for the ball. "I saw he was off into the tunnel with it," Kelly said. "I just went up to him and said, `That's my ball' and took it." Quite right too. Not many teams beat Coventry. Not many from the First Division, anyway.

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

Sign Of The Times

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

THE PLAYER who sounds like an Australian lager started and finished his career at the south coast club where he was playing in the 70s. The other now works with Gary and Alan.

Answers next week. Last week: Middlesbrough's Craig Johnston and Bosko Jankovic.

Just Imagine...

... how England can persuade Sweden to try to win their Euro 2000 qualifier against Poland.

n Promise to give Sweden dix points at the next Eurovision Song Contest.

n Explain that if England don't qualify our nation will be challenging for Sweden's coveted highest suicide per capita on the planet title.

n Threaten to send back Ulri-ka-ka-ka.

Threaten a national boycott of:

n Ikea

n Porn (admittedly harder to enforce).

For next week, the Sweeper invites you to imagine how the BBC could lure Des back `home.' Addresses as above.