Outside the Box: Fabio comes in from cold to help FA celebrate milestone


A glitzy official launch for the Football Association's 150th anniversary at the Connaught Rooms in London on Wednesday will be distinguished by the unexpected presence of Fabio Capello, who resigned as England manager in acrimonious circumstances just under a year ago.

Capello was furious that John Terry had the England captaincy taken away from him by the FA board before his court case was heard and, after airing his frustration on Italian radio, he agreed a compensation package and left. He is now coach to the Russian national team and has been persuaded to accept an invitation extended to all living former England managers to attend on Wednesday.

An FA source said: "This will be the first time Fabio has been back in England since his departure from the job. It is fair to say the nature of his leaving was not ideal but we are glad Fabio has recognised the importance of the occasion."

Houseproud Laurie

Admirers of the late Laurie Cunningham will be pleased to learn that the financial threat to London's famous blue-plaque scheme will not affect plans to erect one to the former Orient, West Bromwich Albion and Real Madrid winger.

This column reported two years ago that Cunningham, the first black player to represent England in a competitive match when he appeared against Wales in 1979, was on the shortlist to receive that rare honour. The application has been formally approved and all that remains is to seek permission from the current owner of one of his former houses, in Tottenham and Finsbury Park, to have the plaque installed.

Cunningham would become only the second football figure honoured in the capital, after the former Arsenal managerial great Herbert Chapman at a house in Hendon. The next obvious candidate would be Bobby Moore, who died in 1993 – any recipient must have been dead for 20 years – but now the Government have cut £40m in funding to English Heritage, who administer the scheme, he will just have to wait.

Raise a toast to the future

Nigel Clough may not be as quirky or controversial as his father, but Derby County's Christmas party suggested he has inherited his father's penchant for the unexpected.

At the Derby manager's request the get-together was not held until the first week of January, after the 5-0 rout of Tranmere in the FA Cup, Clough Jnr's intention being to avoid the squad feeling drained before the hectic festive programme. But would Mason Bennett have been allowed to celebrate with a drink? At 16 years and 174 days he had just become the club's youngest-ever goalscorer. As Will Hughes, reportedly a transfer target for Manchester City and Barcelona, is only 17, it may have been a less- than-boozy bash.

Brim with anticipation

Sam Allardyce, David Seaman and many others observing that teams were "in the hat" for the next round of the FA Cup were presumably unaware that the expression is about 100 years out of date.

Until the First World War, the draw for each round was indeed made from a hat – a topper, we like to think – with a handkerchief placed over it. This was done behind closed doors until radio coverage began in 1935, becoming a Monday-lunchtime ritual that lasted until television took over in the late 1980s, though the noisy balls remain in the famous burgundy-red velvet bag.

Perhaps "in the hat" could at last be replaced by "in the bag"?

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

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