So you thought Manchester United's recent results were down to Wayne Rooney? Not so, according to the anti-Glazer Green and Gold campaign run by dissident supporters, who are claiming the credit since being launched last month. In the six matches before yesterday's surprising reverse at Everton, United won five, drew one and averaged more than three goals a game. A spokesman for Manchester United Supporters' Trust, who now have more than 50,000 members, says: "This is surely no coincidence. United have scored an incredible 19 goals, and the fantastic atmosphere created by all supporters, but especially those wearing the colours of green and gold, has undoubtedly been transmitting to the players on the pitch." We'll just put that theory to Sir Alex Ferguson. Or maybe not.
Bluenose and a red face
From a 'Birmingham Mail' interview with Craig Gardner, then of Aston Villa, in 2007: "I'm a Villa fan. I've come through the ranks and nothing can be better. I used to go on the Holte End. When I was watching Villa as a kid there were people like Garry Parker, Dalian Atkinson and Paul McGrath. I used to sing their names and now I look at the crowd and they're chanting my name, so it's great." From a 'Birmingham Mail' interview with Craig Gardner, now of Birmingham City: "Having played for them, everyone thinks I'm a Villa fan, but I'm a Bluenose. I have been all my life. I was a mascot at John Frain's testimonial. But I don't have to prove anything to anyone. People who know me, my friends and family, all know I'm a Blues fan. As they say, 'Once a Blue, Always a Blue'."
World Cup catches a cold
The World Cup organising committee, who like to blame scare stories in the media for undeniably slow ticket sales, cannot have been best pleased when South Africa's own health minister spoke last week about the "nightmare" of swine flu breaking out during the tournament. Aaron Motsoaledi told the South African parliament: "One of our biggest nightmares is the fact that 2010 is going to be held in June, when there is a possibility of another bout of H1N1." There is concern that supporters from overseas will not appreciate how low temperatures can drop at night during South Africa's midwinter, especially on the Highveld, where a majority of the 10 stadiums are located. The country's department of health have bought 1.3 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine and will receive a further 3.5m as a donation from the World Health Organisation. Vaccination campaigns will give priority to pregnant women, workers at entry points and those involved in sports administration.
Full support for Ngcobo
Meanwhile, there can be little doubt which supporter has tickets to the most games. Thulani Ngcobo expects to enter 'Guinness World Records' after winning a competition held by Fifa partner MTN to find South Africa's No 1 fan. The 29-year-old, who supports Kaizer Chiefs and normally watches up to four matches a week, has 38 World Cup games lined up, which will almost double the existing record of 20 in one competition. The sponsors have arranged for him to see two matches on many days, and Ngcobo says: "Logistics such as transport and accommodation have been well planned." The rest of us should be so lucky...