Football: The Sweeper

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Cardiff's problem is all about Eve

THERE HAVE been echoes of Robert Maxwell in the past week with news that David Sullivan, Birmingham City's owner and another publishing magnate, was considering a takeover bid for Cardiff City, even though he has no intention of giving up his position at St Andrew's, and that Anton Johnson, who was once outlawed for doing something similar, was still in situ at Scarborough.

Sullivan claims that his interest in Cardiff is purely honourable. He was born in Cardiff and says he does not want to see them go to the wall like Newport County. He has suggested to the south Wales club a plan whereby Eve Vorley, his partner, would be put in control. He said: "You could challenge it in the courts - the question of what exactly is ownership - but I'm not going to get involved in anything like that."

Johnson was charged in 1984 with having conflicting interests in Rotherham, Bournemouth and Southend, who all gained, at least in terms of publicity, by their association with the cigar-smoking, self-proclaimed millionaire who liked to be seen wearing a full-length wolfskin coat. A sheep in wolf's clothing, he wasn't, though.

Contrary to popular belief, he was never banned for life; he just never answered charges, dropping out of football completely until this summer when he bought a majority shareholding in Scarborough.

Andy Williamson, the League's assistant secretary, said: "By coming back into football those files may have to be reopened."

Despite assurances to the effect that "I won't do it again, guv," it is understood that Johnson's buy-out of the former chairman has not gone as smoothly as envisaged and that he could be out of the game again before the League ever gets to grips with him.

Williamson said: "It's a for the League to assess whether at this stage, so many years later, it's worth reopening the files. But we would want assurances, this time around, that he's a one-club man."

FOR THE singer Paul Young it was Wherever I Lay My Hat, but for Hereford United it's more a case of "wherever he lays his pat." From the man who gave us Steve Bull comes the conference club's one-ton mascot bull, who, it is hoped, will hit the target with all the unerring accuracy of the Tipton Terrier on 9 May next year.

Graham Turner, the former Wolves manager, and his staff have come up with a new fund-raising initiative whereby the Edgar Street pitch will be divided into square yards and Kudos Freetown, the club's prize bull, let loose on it to do his business. Tickets will be sold at pounds 10 a time and the precise location of his first pat will mean a new car for someone.

MANCHESTER UNITED'S success through the 1990s has been difficult for Leeds United's fans to stomach. So much so that one supporter finds it impossible to say "Manchester United." Gary Edwards, a painter and decorator, offers a discount to any customer whose redecoration involves the removal of red paint.

He and other fans with similar football disorders will be appearing on a Channel 4 programme called It's Only A Game on 29 November in conjunction with the network premier showing of Fever Pitch. There is also a Reading fan, who thinks the new Madejski Stadium leads to a parallel universe and a Nottingham Forest fan who used to talk to a life-size cardboard cut-out of Stuart Pearce and treated it with bandages and Tiger Balm when he was injured. Channel 4, does not say whether she stuck pins in it when he moved to Newcastle.

MARK McGHEE should have known his career at Wolves was about to go up in smoke when signing someone called Guy in this, of all weeks - but not for the reason that might have been thought.

For Guy Whittingham, who became the manager's last signing when joining the club on loan from Sheffield Wednesday on Monday, this was his second loan spell at the Molineux club. Five years ago, when he joined them from Aston Villa, Graham Turner was sacked the same week. No wonder Whittingham, upon hearing of McGhee's dismissal - appropriately enough on Bonfire Night - inquired: "Why does this always happen to me?"

It might interest David Platt, or whoever takes over at Molineux, to know that Whittingham went on to score eight goals in 13 appearances during his last stay.

TRADITION MAY be about to be dealt another savage blow by the replica kit business. Birmingham City, who masquerade under the nickname of "the Blues," turned out at QPR last week in an all-red strip in order to avoid a colour clash and promptly announced that if demands warrant it, they will consider marketing the Le Coq Sportif kit. Can you imagine Everton turning out in all red, colour clash or no colour clash? Their fans would throttle them. Then again, nowadays....

BRIGHTON WERE seen to be striking a blow for smaller clubs when a Football League appeals committee awarded them up to pounds 1m in compensation from Aston Villa for the loss of Gareth Barry, the 17-year-old prodigy, to the Premiership club. The south coast club pleaded they were fighting to retain their League status when Villa spirited away the Third Division club's prized asset.

But didn't Brighton descend upon the even more vulnerable Chester to make off with the winger Rod Thomas for a sum barely enough to pay the players' weekly wage? The unofficial Chester website said Brighton "were first in line to pick up the bones, before the carcass was even dead."

As You Were

Definitely a case of `hair today, gone tomorrow' for everyone's favourite agent Eric Hall, who has always claimed to move with the times but might have made a monster mistake by abandoning Freddie Mercury's flowing locks for the Dennis Wise barnet

The price is right

A TREBLE and three doubles with the postponed Villa game, Filippo Inzaghi first goalscorer for Juventus, over a tenner profit after tax, let's face it, The Price Is Right is better than a unit trust. Leeds (how about a 2-0 win with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scoring first) should find Sheffield Wednesday an easier proposition than Roma in Sunday's Sky game but, if you want to watch a decent game, tune in to Channel 4 to watch Juventus give Udinese a visit to remember (maybe a 2-1 win). Juve, again dismal in the Champions' League on Wednesday, paradoxically went top of Serie A by beating Sampdoria last Sunday and can overwhelm Udinese, hammered 4-0 by Roma last week. With the more creative Alessandro Del Piero sure to drop deep, let's stick with Inzaghi for first goal scorer.

n WEEKEND LIBERO WAGERS

(Three pounds 1 doubles and a pounds 1 treble with Coral): Liverpool to beat Derby (8-13); Arsenal to beat Everton (8-13); Manchester United to beat Newcastle (8-15).

n SUNDAY SKY MATCH

Leeds v Sheffield Wednesday

Score: 2-0 (pounds 1 at 7-1, Coral, Stanley & Tote).

First goal: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (pounds 1 at 9-2, William Hill, Ladbrokes & Stanley & Tote).

n SUNDAY C4 ITALIAN JOB

Udinese v Juventus

Score: 1-2 (pounds 1 at 8-1, William Hill, Stanley & Tote).

First goal: Filippo Inzaghi (pounds 1 at 5-1, William Hill).

ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 110.31!

TODAY'S BETS: pounds 8.72 (includes 72p tax paid on).

ON THE BOARD

Name: Scott Davidson.

Position: Chairman, Bristol City.

Form: A lifelong Robins fan who used to be a session keyboardist with pop-goths The Cure, The Farm, the short-lived Bros and Jason Donovan to name but a few. Spurned the chance to play full-time with hugely successful The Pet Shop Boys in favour of the infinitely more glamorous life of a Nationwide League football club chairman.

Big ideas: Hopes to raise Ashton Gate's ground capacity to 30,000 seats by eventually replacing the ageing Williams and Wedlock stands. Movingly hailed by the Bristol City fans as "the best chairman since Harry Dolman" - but that was before the recent appointment of Benny Lennartsson, Sweden's technical director at the USA '94 World Cup, as City's director of football, an act which forced the popular John Ward to resign as manager.

MY TEAM

Trevor Nelson

Chelsea

Radio One DJ and presenter of MTV's The Look

"The first match I went to was Chelsea against Bolton in the old Second Division, in 1976, I think. It was a 1-1 draw and not a very good game, but then we didn't have a very good team in those days. Believe it or not, my favourite moment was the 1994 FA Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley. We lost 4-0, but the first 45 minutes of that game were unbelievable, it was just the best feeling going to Wembley with Chelsea for the first time - I don't count the Zenith Data Systems Cup! It would be easy to pick one of the current side as my favourite player but the first one who made an impression was Ray Wilkins; he had so much talent for such a young player and his passing ability was something special."

IN T'NET

Found on the Web: Buster the Virtual Physiotherapist

An online tribute to the healing powers of Buster Footman, Bristol City's splendidly named physiotherapist (who comes complete with scary Pythonesque teeth). Try revealing your football-related ailments to Virtual Buster, and your head will soon be so sore that all recollection of dodgy knees, groin strains and the like will fade into insignificance. Virutal Buster is available for consultation at www.jboon.demon.co.uk/bcfc/buster.htm

Seen But Not Bought

LIVERPOOL FANS starved of the heady taste of success can at least seek solace in a bottle of "exclusive" Liverpool Football Club wine. The 1995 Merlot is described as: "A subtle nose of vanilla and soft plum/damson fruits..." Not one for Robbie Fowler then. Or for those balmy away days, how about a spot of white? The 1996 Chardonnay has: "...a nose of rich tropical fruits such as pineapple and mango... with a lingering lemon crisp finish." An unusual accompaniment to an afternoon on the Kop, we feel.

They're Not All Dennis Bergkamp

Unsung foreign

legionnaires No 13

BJARNOLFUR LARUSSON: Known to fans and his Walsall team-mates as "Bjarni", this Icelandic Under-21 forward won a domestic championship medal with Rekyavik's IBV in 1997 before moving to Hibernian in the same year under the Bosman Ruling. He was unable to make much of an impact at Easter Road, however, and in September this year found himself at Walsall on a month's loan. The move was made permanent shortly before last Saturday's away game at Bristol Rovers, where the 22-year-old announced his arrival with two goals, including a last-minute winner, in his side's 4-3 success. "Name should make for an interesting crowd chant," one contributor to a Walsall web site noted dryly.

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