Football: The Sweeper: Scoreboard spells trouble for Leek

AS IF relegation from the Nationwide Conference with some of the lowest crowds ever recorded in the competition were not bad enough, poor Leek Town are now being sued by Port Vale for non-payment of an electronic scoreboard which the First Division club sold them. That would be a sad enough story alone if it were not for the fact that Leek, who bought the item (which more often than not is used for relaying the scores of opposing teams rather than their own sorry side) for a nominal sum, have spent pounds 14,000 trying to get the thing working. Vale have responded that it was "definitely working when it left us".

DON HUTCHISON, the one-time wild thing of Anfield, claims he is a reformed character nowadays, but he certainly appeared to be up to some of his old tricks the other week in Bremen, when starting his first senior international for Scotland in the friendly against Germany. While Swiss referee, Urs Meier, was jogging past him during the pre-match warm-up, Hutchison took careful aim and chipped the ball so it landed on the referee's head. When Meier spun around, Hutchison looked in the other direction like a naughty schoolboy caught red-handed before pointing in the direction of a colleague. Fortunately for Hutchison, Meier saw the funny side of it and the Scot avoided a booking before the game had even begun - if such a thing were possible. Unfortunately for Germany, they failed to see this early warning of the Everton player's technique. Hutch, of course, went on to score the only goal of the game.

AFTER SWANSEA'S Cyril the Swan had his wings clipped by the FA of Wales, it could be the turn of the Wolves mascot, Wolfie, to come in for disciplinary action. Wolfie has been reported to the Football Association for crowd incitement and bringing the game into disrepute after an allegedly unprovoked attack on Baggie Bird, West Bromwich Albion's mascot, in the pre-match warm-up at last month's Black Country derby at Molineux.

Baggie fan Noel Bishop said: "Passions always run high at derbies and this match was no exception," said Bishop, "but the 3,000 Albion fans were going crazy, especially when Wolfie goaded us."

WITH THE season nearly at an end, the time has come for The Sweeper's awards of the footballing year. Without further ado, the gongs are:

BEST OWN GOAL

Nottingham Forest's pre-season sale of Kevin Campbell, who showed the City Ground what he can do for struggling Premiership clubs with a quick- fire six goals while on loan to Everton.

STRIKERS OF THE SEASON

Pierre van Hooijdonk, whose selfish withdrawal of labour ultimately cost manager Dave Beasant his job and Forest any hope of survival; and Paolo Di Canio, whose attack on referee Paul Alcock and subsequent suspension did much to undermine Sheffield Wednesday's season.

SPECIAL AWARD FOR SERVICES TO TUMBLING

Mr Alcock himself. Not for falling under the hand of Di Canio, of course, because that was a terrible, harsh push that would have demolished a wall. This is for general lack of balance in the past. As The Sweeper revealed earlier this season that the Kent official's tumble at the hands of the Italian was his third trip to the turf. Frank Sinclair (when at West Brom) and Wayne Biggins (when at Stoke) also received suspensions after their past run-ins.

LAUGHING-ALL-THE-WAY-TO-THE-BANK SALE OF THE SEASON

Rookie Kevin Davies' pounds 7.5m move from Southampton to more-money-than-sense Blackburn for a net return of one League goal. Runner-up: John Hartson's pounds 7m transfer from West Ham to Wimbledon for the same modest return.

TEAM OF THE SEASON (FIRST HALF OF IT)

Aston Villa.

JuRGEN KLINSMANN'S DIVING AWARD

David Ginola (Tottenham Hotspur), who stayed on two feet long enough to also win the PFA and FWA awards.

FIRST ANNUAL GOLDEN WHEELCHAIR AWARD FOR SERVICES TO THE DISABLED

Glenn Hoddle.

SPECIAL AWARD FOR SERVICES TO THE NATION

Eileen Drewery, whose indoctrination of Glenn Hoddle provided the Football Association with the perfect excuse to get rid of their failing, crackpot coach.

COWARDICE AWARD

The FA (for the above reasons).

BUSYBODY AWARD

Sports minister Tony Banks and PM Tony Blair, with special thanks to Richard and Judy. (All for meddling in the aforementioned affair).

COTTAGE INDUSTRY AWARD

Mohamed Al Fayed, of Fulham and still Egypt - "I give you promotion, a passport [Kevin Keegan] to Europe but you give me nothing in return - apart from Harrods."

MOST REGRETTABLE QUOTE MADE WHEN NOT IN POSSESSION OF THE FULL FACTS AWARD

Middlesbrough's manager Bryan Robson, who said of Paul Gascoigne after the first match of the season in August: "He [Gazza] assured me he only had two glasses of red wine, so as far as I'm concerned that's not a problem. That's a nice sensible night out."

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