Football: The Sweeper Goldberg shrinks from the Reaper

MARK GOLDBERG, the Crystal Palace chairman, has decided not to meet the Grim Reaper this afternoon. No, he hasn't suddenly been handed the power of immortality, he's merely refused to meet demonstrators protesting against his stewardship of the financially troubled club.

"On police advice, Goldberg will not be accepting the petition against him," Cris Lehmann, the organiser of today's protest, said yesterday. Lehmann (aka, the Grim Reaper because of the costume he will don to lead the protestors), added that his petition - signed by 5,000 people including some players - will instead be received on behalf of the club by Phil Alexander, the managing director.

For those Palace supporters wanting to join the protest, meet at 1.30pm at the bottom of Holmesdale Road. A march will start at 2pm, ending with the handing in of the petition. Before kick-off, 15,000 black balloons will be released on to the pitch ,to mark the recent loss of 46 jobs at the club. "And then," said Lehmann, "we'll all get 100 per cent behind the team and behind Steve Coppell."

The Sweeper wonders whether the two Danish journalists who attended last weekend's Hibs against Morton game have figured out their post-match interview notes yet. After the record-breaking fixture finished - Hibs won 2-1 to take their points tally to 83, the highest ever in the Scottish First Division - the Hibs manager, Alex McLeish, popped into the press box to have a few words with the assembled hacks. When McLeish said: "I didn't think the second half was all that great," the pair from Denmark wrote it down with no problems. They also wrote down the next sentence, but one can only guess what they made of it. "The game went as flat as a witch's tit," is probably not commonly used in Copenhagen.

THE SPIREITES' last home game of the season today, against Northampton Town, will be swelled by the Japanese branch of the Chesterfield Supporters' Club - all four of them. Their passion for the club was aroused two years ago during a holiday in England when John Duncan's team went on that storming run through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, before losing to Middlesbrough in a replay. Since then the Japanese have kept in touch with fans through the post and e-mail and have now made the 6,000-mile journey back to England to watch a game which holds only any real importance for the relegation- threatened Cobblers. One of the Japanese contacts is Spireite fan Chris Radford, who said: "I keep getting e-mails from different blokes in Tokyo wanting to know all about Chesterfield. Apparently, there's quite a famous sports bar in Tokyo where they meet to watch bulletin programmes about English football - and to show off their Chesterfield shirts!"

UNIBOND LEAGUE club Emley, who last season came within eight minutes of taking West Ham United back to their cramped little ground in an FA Cup third round replay, similarly just managed to avoid a taste of their own medicine when they got their Sheffield Senior Cup semi-final moved to a neutral ground following fears that they would have to run a gauntlet of home fans holding bottles and pints of beer.

County Senior League club Wombwell Main offered to bus the Emley players the 100 yards from the pitch to the changing rooms, but their opponents flatly refused and wrote a letter to the Sheffield and Hallamshire FA detailing their concerns. They were particularly worried about the safety of their players after spectators had been seen at recent Main matches holding bottles and pints of beer. They also complained that there were no dug-outs, that the host club did not have enough posts to rope off the pitch and that they could not accommodate the 400-500 crowd that was anticipated.

Billy Robey, the long-serving Main manager, denied all of Emley's claims. "If the Emley management were worried about the safety of their players, we were willing to put on a 20-seater bus to take them from the changing- rooms to the pitch and back," he said. "We were willing to arrange for two portaloos and also offered Emley an alternate date. I could also add that there would have been no bar open and that our supporters would not be holding bottles or pints." It ended for Main in the rearranged game, at Worsbrough Bridge on Monday, when Emley won 2-0.

ONE MANCHESTER City fan did not know whether to laugh or cry after last week's unscheduled defeat at home to struggling Wycombe Wanderers. The manager of local bookmakers, Paul Deane, who also happens to be an avid City fan, had recently offered odds of 20-1 on Joe Royle's team gaining automatic promotion to the First Division. City fans responded in droves and the bookie stands to lose pounds 10,000 should they pull it off. Jimmy Dixon, group personnel manager of the bookies, said: "The manager of our Heald Green branch gave the odds as a special offer to attract custom. He's a mad City fan. But he doesn't know if he wants them to go up automatically now because if they do, he'll lose a packet."

WANT EUROPEAN Cup-Winners' Cup tickets to see Lazio against Real Mallorca? Requests by post to Aston Villa, Trinity Road, Birmingham B6 6HE. Only pounds 30 and pounds 40 seats are still available. Make cheques payable to "Aston Villa FC."

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