England's 'fair play' could lead to extra place in Uefa Cup

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The Independent Football

England are top of Uefa's fair play rankings and could benefit from an additional Uefa Cup spot next season, European football's governing body said yesterday.

England lead Norway and Germany at the top of the table and will secure an extra place in the Uefa Cup first qualifying round if they remain first when the final standings are calculated at the end of April.

The fair play rankings are based on the performances of national teams and clubs competing in European competition and involve criteria such as crowd behaviour, positive play and an avoidance of yellow and red cards.

Uefa said two other qualifying spots would be allocated on a lottery basis between all the associations who finish with an average fair play ranking of at least eight points. Sweden, France, Denmark, Spain, Estonia and Finland are the other countries to have reached that benchmark.

In Scotland, meanwhile, the owner of Gretna, Brooks Mileson, has been admitted to hospital. Mileson, who funded the team's rise from the Third Division to the Scottish Premier League, has battled serious illness in recent years. The 60-year-old had two stomach operations in 2006.

The Celtic midfielder Shunsuke Nakamura admits he faces a fight for his first-team place following the arrival of Barry Robson. Robson began his Celtic career on Sunday by sweeping home a free-kick with his first touch after coming on for Nakamura during the 5-1 win at Aberdeen. That took his tally to 13 goals for the season following his £1.25m move from Dundee United.

Robson played much of the season at Tannadice on the right of midfield, the position which Nakamura has made his own since arriving two-and-a-half years ago. The Japan midfielder was voted Scotland's player of the year by sports writers and his fellow players last season. But a knee injury ruled him out for 10 weeks earlier this term and Aiden McGeady took over as Celtic's key man.

"Ever since I came to Celtic, I've not had a trial for my place on the right side of midfield," Nakamura said. "But now Barry has come here and he can definitely play out there and cut inside on his left foot, as I have done in the past."