It is clearly the time of year for our leading managers to be digging into their innermost soul. While Arsène Wenger reflected on questions of anger management after his untypical but highly successful half-time outburst at Anfield last Sunday, Sir Alex Ferguson has contributed to a book of life-lessons entitled "The Handbook of Life" produced for North West-based children's charities. He tells readers: "I have had a few good pieces of advice about life. Appreciate your youth, upbringing and the ideals that your parents have given you and through that you can enjoy life and pass these values to your own children. You should enjoy it and try and have a happy approach to it. My Dad told me when I was about to start work: 'If you are going to do something, do it well.' After 43 trophies as a manager, you could say he has lived up to that.
Durham face real battle
Last week we brought glad tidings of Fort William, who after one win in two seasons have now doubled that total well before Hogmanay. While sinking a wee dram or three, however, their loyal followers should spare a thought for those further south who have been watching Durham City run up the following record in the Unibond Premier League: P21 W0 D0 L21 F13 A109 Pts 0.
Those may seem unlikely figures for a team who last season lost only three games in winning promotion, but the story behind them highlights the wider issue of artificial pitches in non-League football. Durham have a 3G pitch, which is allowed by the Unibond League but not the Blue Star Conference, the next level in the non-League pyramid. Told last summer that they could not therefore be promoted or even allowed into the play-offs if successful this season, they immediately lost their main sponsor and virtually all the first-team squad. The local youngsters forced to play have been conceding an average of five goals per game. The Conference say they are unlikely to change their stance on artificial pitches unless the Football League do so, which has disappointed the Football Association, who are now considering allowing them in early rounds of the FA Cup.
End of line for Linnets
At least Durham still have a team, as well as a flourishing academy. Kings Lynn, who beat them 11-0, no longer do so after being wound up in the High Court last week over a debt of £77,000 to the Inland Revenue. The Linnets, founded in 1879, claim to be the oldest club in Norfolk but they go out of existence after having scored 18 goals in their final two league games, the last being a 7-2 victory at home to Ossett.
Iqbal caps off a great year
Happier times at another Unibond club, Bradford Park Avenue, who played in the top division of English football until 1921 but were voted out of the Football League 40 years ago in favour of Cambridge United and folded four years later. Starting again in 1988, they are second in the Unibond Premier and have just had their first full international cap since Ireland's Mick McGrath in 1967. Amjad Iqbal, a 29-year-old chemistry lecturer, played for Pakistan in the South Asia Championships. He could have partnered a Bradford City player at centre-back, but Zesh Rehman pulled out.