Outside the Box: All-rounder D'Oliveira would have been happy at the Valley


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The Independent Online

In all the tributes to Basil D'Oliveira following his recent death, little or no mention was made of how he might have become a footballer in England.

Now Charlton Athletic's historian Colin Cameron has revealed that D'Oliveira, who was talented enough to play for South Africa's non-white national team, once told him in a pub near Lord's that he had written to the club requesting a trial but never received a reply.

He would have been following a long line of South African players at the Valley, including Eddie Firmani, John Hewie and two who were also footballer-cricketers, spending their summers playing for Kent: Sid O'Linn (capped at both sports) and record goalscorer Stuart Leary.

Yule never walk alone

No fewer than 12 new versions of football anthems have been released as downloads in time for the Christmas market, with all profits going to charity in a project coordinated by the Radio 6 Music presenter Chris Hawkins.

The best-known performer is Phil Daniels, previously featured on Blur's Britpop anthem "Parklife", who is fronting a band named Cockney Alarm on Chelsea's "Blue Is The Colour", in aid of Help A London Child.

Liverpool's "You'll Never Walk Alone", Stoke City's "Delilah" and Manchester City's "Blue Moon" are among the more obvious choices.

Less so is "Those Were The Days" by the young Warwickshire singer-songwriter Issy Ferris on behalf of Wolves – though in their darkest days Molineux fans did used to chant "Bring back the Fifties", when they were League champions three times and runners-up twice.

Youth teams follow veterans

The old story of British and German troops playing football in No Man's Land on Christmas Day 1914 received a contemporary twist this weekend with Under-12 teams from Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund, Genk and RC Lens taking part in a Christmas Truce tournament near Ypres organised by the Premier League.

United's academy director, Brian McClair, said: "It's important to understand that football has a wonderful power to build bridges."

Salmon's in deep water

Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, will have to tread warily as he makes his way to forthcoming home games of his favourite club Hearts. Fathers for Justice, who have just begun a series of protests north of the border, say they have been given details of his route to games by a sympathetic "club insider".

A spokesman said: "We are not targeting Hearts, we are targeting Alex Salmond. We want him to say he supports more rights for fathers and grandparents when a family breakdown happens."

Salmond attends matches when he can but has been criticalof the Edinburgh club on two occasions this year: after the attack on Celtic's manager, Neil Lennon, by a home supporter; and when they were "too slow" to sack full-back Craig Thomson after he was found guilty in June of indecent behaviour and placed on the sex offenders' register.

Thomson was loaned to a Lithuanian club owned by Hearts' majority shareholder, Vladimir Romanov, but has now returned to Scotland and cannot sign for anyone else until January.

Mind games are beneficial

At a time when depression and mental health have become live issues in football, comes an encouraging report that playing the sport can help those with problems.

Academics at Staffordshire and Aston universities set up a team four years ago for men with mental health problems. They play in a West Midlands league, and players who agreed to be interviewed about the experience reported "ability to deal better with their mental health problems, improved confidence and improvements in their social life".

The findings were presented to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society Division of Clinical Psychology in Birmingham on Friday.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; www.twitter.com/@stevetongue