After a trying couple of weeks, a first trophy of the season beckons for Arsenal today – albeit on the distaff side.
Arsenal Ladies, who have been a dominant force for two decades, are favourites to win the inaugural FA Women's Super League on the final day of the new summer season, as they lead Birmingham City by a point with both teams facing away games against the bottom pair. Arsenal go to Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium and Birmingham play the bottom side Liverpool at Skelmersdale (both kicking off at 2pm).
Hope Powell, manager of the England women's team, says of the new competition: "I've spoken to a lot of players about it and we all agree, it is definitely more competitive. It has been a good thing for the women's game. We'll review it in the close-season and look at what might need changing or improving, but it's all been going well."
Though attendances average only 600, the FA claim that is an increase of some 400 per cent, with four of the eight teams having set records. Hoping to maximise the crowds at today's four final games, they will allow supporters to choose how much they pay to watch; not, we must hope, an excuse for any displays of exaggerated chauvinism.
Damages follow injuries
A troublesome issue exercising the FA at the lower reaches of the mens' game is insurance for players who risk being sued for causing a serious injury.
In the latest case, a Reading Town player had to find more than £100,000 in costs and damages for loss of earnings after his tackle left an opponent with a broken leg; Reading did not have adequate insurance and the player was only able to pay because he discovered that his parents, with whom he lives, had public liability cover on their home insurance.
Ashton United of the Northern Premier League were not so lucky and face being wound up as they cannot pay a similar sum to a former Altrincham player who won a judgment against them for a tackle that ended his career six years ago. The FA are still trying to arrange a schedule of payments that will enable Ashton to keep going.
In Football League circles, where clubs tend to be properly covered, successful claims were made in the past by the Bradford striker Gordon Watson against Huddersfield's Kevin Gray (£909,000) and Charlton's Matt Holmes against Kevin Muscat of Wolves (estimated £750,000).
That's going to Costa you
It was a shame that Thun's first-choice goalkeeper David da Costa was suspended for the second leg of the Europa League match at Stoke on Thursday, for who knows what antics he might have entertained us with?
Sent off late in the first leg after bringing down Jon Walters, he was recently fined 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,923) for using a megaphone to lead Thun's fans in derogatory chants about opponents Grasshoppers – he is a self-proclaimed fan of Zurich, Grasshoppers' local rivals. Fellow fanatics began a collection but Da Costa said he will pay up.
Not caring about Carling
It is tempting to ask how seriously the Carling Cup can be taken in its early stages when a League One side (Charlton) make 11 changes and still knock out a Championship team (Reading) with eight changes.
Newly promoted Premier League clubs made it clear where their priorities lay as Norwich made 11 changes for a 4-0 home defeat by MK Dons, Swansea made nine in a 3-1 defeat at Shrewsbury and Queens Park Rangers made eight for a home defeat by Rochdale. The closest to recognised sides were fielded by two clubs who would regard the competition as their best chance of a trophy: Everton (five changes) beat Sheffield United, but Sunderland, changing two outfield players and a keeper, lost at Brighton.
In the third-round draw, Birmingham were handed a tough start to their title defence with a visit to Manchester City, and Manchester United rekindle their rivalry with Leeds with a trip to Elland Road.