Football: The Sweeper: Leeds lads choose the Devils' shirts

NOT SINCE Eric Cantona took himself off to Old Trafford have Leeds United fans been forced to suffer such humiliation at the hands of their great rivals as those devotees who populate the first XI of HMS Montrose. To their "horror and disbelief", their recent appeal to numerous Premiership clubs for a cast-off team kit met with just one response and you can guess who that was from.

It was either wear the red and white of Manchester United or just not play. But our brave boys in the South Atlantic have an unbeaten record to maintain (nine wins and one draw) against the likes of Uruguay, Chile and Panama so they swallowed their pride and pulled on the red shirt for Britain - over the top of their worn-out old Leeds jerseys.

"We couldn't believe it when the only club generous enough to respond was Manchester United," said player-manager and Chief Petty Officer, Mark Minall. "Our compromise, a hot and sticky one, is to wear a Leeds shirt underneath. It's our only only option, unless Leeds United take pity and reconsider our request. Then we can give the red and white kit to our second XI."

THE NAME of Manchester United's latest acquisition was enough to make even Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke break out in a cold sweat, never mind Teddy Sheringham. Welcomed to Old Trafford recently with open arms was one D Law, but United's present-day strikers need have no fear, the individual in question being Diana Law, the daughter of the Stretford End legend, who was joining the club's rapidly expanding communications department as a deputy press officer. It goes without saying that Diana is a lifelong United fan, but despite being Manchester born and bred, the 25-year-old is also "a Scotland fan through and through", not that there are too many of her compatriots at Old Trafford these days. She is the latest in a long line of daughters of famous football dads who have gone into the media. Others include the BBC weather girl Suzanne Charlton (the daughter of Denis Law's old playmate, Sir Bobby), ITV's Gabby Yorath and Sky Sport's Kelly Dalglish.

IT ISN'T like football fans to get all sentimental about a manager who has landed them in second-bottom place in the table, but the esteem with which John Rudge is held by Port Vale fans - and the game in general - is high indeed. Today, at Portman Road, Vale fans will release 843 balloons to commemorate Rudge's 843 League games in charge at Vale Park prior to last week's sacking. It's being described by the fans as "a celebration not a protest against the club", who have been criticised for the manner in which they disposed of the game's second longest surviving manager after Dario Gradi. However, the mood threatens to become rather darker at the next home game, - against Huddersfield, next Saturday - when the fans will be releasing 843 black balloons. Rudge, who yesterday declined an "upstairs" job at Vale Park after 19 years there, may no longer be wanted as manager but he seems to be still in demand elsewhere; he spent this week coaching none other than Manchester United, at the request of Alex Ferguson, who, coincidentally, now becomes the second longest surviving manager.

WHATEVER COMPLAINTS Morecambe fans may have this season - and lying in the top half of the Conference they cannot have too many - a lack of goals certainly isn't one of them. Last week's 2-0 defeat at Stevenage brought up the ton for the season in the league in their 28th game, the only trouble is that their fans never know which end the goals will be coming at. No one in the Conference, or anywhere in senior football come to that, has bettered their 45-goal haul, but at the same time nor has any team, apart from Crewe Alexandra, conceded as many goals - 55. Talk about blowing hot and cold; the same club who back in August suffered the biggest defeat in Conference history - 7-0 at Leek Town - also registered the league's biggest ever away win - 6-1 at Farnborough - last month. After all that, today's home game against Yeovil Town will probably end up as a goalless draw.

CLOSE BEHIND the ovations given for Messrs Beardsley and Keegan at the former's testimonial at St James's Park on Wednesday night was the one for Steve Watson's somersault throw-in. It used to be a party trick of the Aston Villa defender during competitive games in his youth for Newcastle until he was told "no more" by the then Newcastle manager Jim Smith after doing it at a League Cup tie against neighbours Middlesbrough at the old Ayresome Park, where there was room for such spectacular manoeuvres. Given Dion Dublin's aerial ability, it might be worth his while reviving the act - though banned by Fifa - at Villa Park because he finds the six- yard box with it every time.

COULD GEORGE BEST, party animal extrordinaire, be making a move from the fast lane to the slipper lounge as the years catch up with him? When a caller to his local, the Phene Arms off the Kings Road, enquired about George's whereabouts one lunch-time earlier this week, the response from a member of staff was: "Not sure where he is."

When pressed on what time George might be expected in for his regular one o' clock drink, the staff member stalled for a moment and managed: "Look, he's not here." Only at the third time of asking was a fuller explanation proffered. "I know he was taking his wife out last night," came the explanation. "So I'm not sure he'll make it in today."


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