Football: The Sweeper - Morley tackles a smaller Villa

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The Independent Online
THE NUMBER of famous ex-players gracing the nether regions of non-League football this season continues to grow. Following in the footsteps of Paul Stewart and Chris Waddle comes, this week, the former European Cup and League Championship winner Tony Morley, who turned out for Stratford Town in the Interlink Express Midland Alliance at the age of 45 against ... the Villa.

The years have clearly not robbed the former Aston Villa and England winger of all his pace and touch because he scored with an early goal on his debut, against a team called Pelsall Villa. But the bard's local team have suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune in the past week with the departure of manager Easton Shaw, his assistant and half a dozen players, and Pelsall came back to win 3-1.

Stratford's chairman Stuart Dixon, whose club face a relegation after just three wins all season, said: "Tony did very well and I would love to see him play regularly. There's no doubt he could do a job for us."

THE VISIT of Liverpool to Vale Park today in the FA Cup revives memories for Port Vale captain Neil Aspin of his formative years in the upper echelons of the game, at Leeds - and tough times they were by all accounts. He recalled how, on one occasion, fellow apprentice Mark Gavin, later of Bolton and Hearts, urinated in the sauna, unaware that first-teamers were due to use it later that day. When they got to hear of it Gavin was rolled around Elland Road car park in a giant wicker basket until he repented. Much worse was the fate suffered by other apprentices, who, for no apparent reason, were tied naked to goalposts in deep winter and pelted with snowballs by the pros while Aspin "cowered out of range somewhere". Not that he is the type to do so, but there will be no hiding place for central defender Aspin today against Owen and co.

FOOTBALL ANNUALS have a hard enough job remaining current without Bosman sticking his boot in. With freedom of contract it's difficult to say who's playing for whom from day to day never mind year to year. An enterprising assistant at Waterstone's in Central Coventry, however, may have discovered a way of solving the problem. The front cover of the Sky Blues' diary for the season has a rather prominent picture of the departed "Villan" Dion Dublin on it. So what has the book shop done? Just reversed the cover. Darren Huckerby always did look better standing on his head, anyway. It was for a similar reason that a video of Goodison's greatest goals was not in any Evertonians' stocking this Christmas - Duncan Ferguson graced the box. The makers wisely decided to hold it back rather than risk adding to the Blues' misery over Xmas. Besides, Gary Speed was on the reverse cover - only joking.

AS ACTS of kindness go down the Fulham Road this festive season, Mohammed Al-Fayed's Harrod's food hampers for out-of-work managers would take some beating by even old greybeard himself, even if the Fulham owner did get the hampers at cost price. His generosity usually comes with strings attached but there appeared to be none with the food parcel gratefully received by Glyn Chamberlain, sacked by non-League Newcastle Town going into Christmas but now manager of Congleton Town. It was by way of thanks for scouting work that Chamberlain had done for his former Chesterfield boss Arthur Cox, now director of football at Fulham. I wonder if the former Everton manager Howard Kendall got a hamper from Peter Johnson.

CHEATS NEVER prosper, we are told, but not according to Arsene Wenger, leastways not in the FA Cup. So who do you think is the Arsenal manager's tip to win the old competition. Manchester United? Aston Villa? Chelsea? Arsenal? No. His fancy is the team who last Monday, against the Gunners, suffered their seventh consecutive defeat and whose midfielder Nigel Redfearn was branded a cheat by Wenger for allegedly trying to get Patrick Vieira sent off - Charlton Athletic. It does not say much for Wenger's estimation of the improving Blackburn Rovers side, who, after all, are at home to the Addicks in today's third round.

WITH ALL that Manchester United fans have on their plate, what with European Cup quarter-finals, Premiership title bids, it's amazing that they still have time to spare a thought for their old rivals Manchester City. So with the Maine Road club struggling to make an impact, even in the Second Division, the Reds ask: What does City stand for? Answer: Conference in Two Years.

LAST WEEK we asked you to name the nine first-teamers and one reserve at Chelsea who have won championship medals with other clubs. The terrific 10, together with their title-winning teams, are as follows: Ed de Goey (Feyenoord), Dan Petrescu (Steaua Bucharest), Marcel Desailly (Milan), Celestine Babayaro (Anderlecht), Gianluca Vialli (Juventus and Sampdoria), Graeme Le Saux (Blackburn Rovers), Albert Ferrer (Barcelona), Gianfranco Zola (Napoli) and - this is the tricky one - Roberto di Matteo (Aarau, Switzerland). The 10th title winner on Chelsea's books is the reserve goalkeeper Dimitri Kharine (CSKA Moscow). Sadly, as no one was able to come up with the correct winning combination, The Sweeper felt it only proper to glug down the unclaimed prize bottle of New Year's goodwill himself. Cheersh!

A TENDER moment from the the earlier days of Brian and Nigel Clough (as seen more recently, right), prior to Clough Snr's disastrous 44-day tenure as Leeds United manager in 1974. Seen here outside Elland Road with sons Simon and Nigel (centre), perhaps Cloughie's merriment could be explained by the following son-to-father exchange: "What's so funny, Dad?" "I'm imagining Billy Bremner's face when I tell him you're taking his place in midfield." "Ha ha ha!"

price is right

THE SWEEPER'S STOMPING CERTAINTIES

A FABULOUS four-timer and a shrewd bet on Arsenal for the title at 5-1 (they won both their games over the holiday period and are already down to 4-1) last week. The Sweeper intends to start the New Year as he finished the old, terrorising the local bookie down both flanks and in the midfield of the betting shop. There are some tub-thumping home bankers in the third round of the FA Cup today, so let's nip in for a seven-match accumulator. And, in tomorrow's Sky game, Manchester United should avenge their recent home league defeat by Middlesbrough, who are going off the boil and should provide fewer problems than Chelsea did on Wednesday. Alex Ferguson's men have the European Cup as their main objective, but are sure to be up for it in what could be a grudge match.

n LIBERO WAGERS

(pounds 5 seven-fold accumulator with the Tote): Aston Villa to beat Hull City (1-10); Coventry to beat Macclesfield (2-7); Newcastle to beat Crystal Palace (8-15); Nottingham Forest to beat Portmouth (8-15); Southampton to beat Fulham (5-6); West Ham to beat Swansea (1-3); Wimbledon to beat Manchester City (1-2).

(Return: pounds 60.76).

n SUNDAY SKY MATCH

Manchester United v Middlesbrough

Manchester United (pounds 3 to win at 4-6, Tote).

ORIGINAL BANK: pounds 100.

CURRENT KITTY: pounds 118.78!

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

From The FA Cup Archives

PLYMOUTH ARGYLE entertain Derby County in a third-round tie today in a repeat of a quarter-final in 1984. On that occasion the Third Division club from Devon won after a replay at the Baseball Ground. Derby, struggling in the old Second Division, were also in deep financial trouble. They were rescued by a cash injection from one Robert Maxwell. His generosity earned the above response from fans at the Baseball Ground. Little did they know...

MY TEAM

Chris Quentin

Middlesbrough

Former Coronation Street actor, currently starring in Cinderella at the Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford.

"Middlesbrough are my home town team. I supported Leeds as a boy in the late 60s, but, since Steve Gibson and Bryan Robson arrived, Middlesbrough has come alive with football. At the FA Cup final in 1997 I was thinking: `My God, I can't believe we're at Wembley!' The game itself was a let- down, but it was an occasion for the whole club to be recognised as well as putting the town on the map. I reckon we'll finish mid-table this season but we won't be fighting relegation, and hopefully next year we can qualify for Europe."

IN T'NET

Found on the Web: Scherp Schutters Soccer Quiz

YOU'VE MEMORISED all the answers from the sports edition of Trivial Pursuit your granny got you for Christmas and the pub's quiz machine has smoke coming out of the sides, but still your thirst for mindless football trivia is unsatiated. In which case, point your browser toward the Scherp Shutters, whose mind-boggling variety of multiple-choice footy quizzes should keep you guessing to the end. Indeed, The Sweeper must confess to scoring a decidedly average 10 out of 15 on the World Soccer quiz, despite feeling confident that Middlesbrough were not an Australian club. Go try.

http://www.surf.to/soccertrivia

Seen But Not Bought

FOR SWEET-TOOTHED fans, the holidays have churned up a fabulous if somewhat bizarre selection of club-connected confectionary. For the Swansea fan who doesn't quite have it all, how about a slab of Swans French Nougat? And a gift box of Blades Chocolate Footballs would surely fill any Sheffield United fan with, well, chocolate. Best of all though, who needs the sweet taste of success when you can savour the even sweeter taste of Plymouth Argyle Fudge?

They're Not All Dennis Bergkamp

Unsung foreign

legionnaires No 20

BEN IROHA: Experience is one quality that Watford's recently acquired Nigerian World Cup defender is certainly not lacking in any shape or form. The 29-year-old veteran of France 98 and USA 94 became a free agent after leaving the Spanish side, Elche, last summer. His career began in his home country, where he played with distinction for Flash Flamingos and Nationale. Following a spell playing with ASEC Mimosa in the Ivory Coast, Iroha went on to spend three seasons at the Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem, before moving on again to San Jose Clash (pictured left) in the United States. One year on, he was at DC United, where he won an MSL championship medal. A lifelong fan of English football, Iroha considers his greatest assets to be pace and a long throw-in.

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