Fulham investigate Healy incident

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The Independent Online

Fulham and the Irish Football Association are looking into David Healy's flute-playing gesture during Saturday's friendly against Celtic.

The Northern Ireland striker upset some Celtic fans by pretending to play a flute in an apparent mimic of an Orange band member.

Healy's agent claimed the player's actions were a "good-natured" response to stick he was receiving from some of the 11,000 visiting fans at Craven Cottage.

Pictures of the incident appeared on the front pages of some newspapers in Scotland though and have prompted debate in Northern Ireland.

IFA chief executive Howard Wells is waiting to speak to Healy before making any judgement.

"I put a call into David to speak to him," he said.

"I'll speak to Roy Hodgson, the Fulham manager, to see his take on it and I shan't be jumping to any conclusions."

Fulham are also making enquiries over the incident.

A club spokesman said: "The team is in Korea for pre-season. The club is looking into the alleged incident."

Healy's agent, Stephen Hughes, claimed the boyhood Rangers fan had made a jocular response after being asked what he was doing on 12 July, when the Orange Order remember the Battle of the Boyne.

Hughes told the Daily Mail: "They were chanting 'Where were you on the 12th?', which is the day of the Orange marching bands in Belfast.

"So he simply pretended to play the flute - there was no attempt to inflame the fans.

"Afterwards, some of the fans who had been giving him stick sent over programmes for him to sign, which he did quite willingly."

The incident revived memories of a similar gesture by Paul Gascoigne as he warmed up at Celtic Park in 1998.

Gascoigne was fined by Rangers for repeating the actions he first used as a goal celebration in a pre-season game in 1995.

Healy was awarded an MBE earlier this year for services to football and the community in Northern Ireland after scoring a record 13 goals during his country's bid to reach Euro 2008.

Last month the 28-year-old headed the largest coaching event to be held in the UK, the David Healy Fitba Day.

More than 2,000 children and 64 coaches - including some from Celtic's community programme - took part in the event in County Tyrone.