Outside the Box: Magic of the cuppa for the manager of the seasoning


Arsène Wenger is often credited with revolutionising British players' diet, but according to the former Manchester United captain Bryan Robson, Sir Alex Ferguson was ahead of the field: "He'd come into a pre-match meal and say, 'Get that salt off the table, I don't want any of that butter there, get margarine. And no sugar in your tea or coffee'. We couldn't believe it." Robson, one of the all-time British Heroes XI commemorated in this week's issue of Royal Mail stamps, had always been a two-sugars man but wisely gave up – and even cut down on his alcoholic intake. "He had me in the office and said, 'I know you can run for fun even after you've had a drink, but I'd sooner you cut the drinking down and you'd be able to run even further and for longer.' I had no problem with that. Paul McGrath did, and didn't change at all, and that's why he went."

Times are tight for Tykes

Signs of the recessionary times in Yorkshire, where Barnsley, despite achieving Championship safety in last weekend's drawn derby at Huddersfield, had to cancel their Player of the Year awards dinner because only 57 tickets were sold. That was still almost twice as many as for last year's 125th anniversary dinner, also cancelled after only 30 tickets were sold. (Surely those well-known Tykes supporters Sir Michael Parkinson and Dickie Bird have more friends between them than that?) Meanwhile at Elland Road in Leeds, Howard's restaurant (named after the club's title-winning manager Howard Wilkinson) has closed down. No official reason has been given but the eaterie, named best newcomer in the Yorkshire Evening Post dining awards two years ago, has apparently been suffering from dwindling numbers.

Fog in the channel clears

Following our recent reports of extraordinary fixture congestion suffered by Guernsey in the Combined Counties League, it is only right to record for those who may have missed it that the Channel Islands club won their last seven games of the season, played in the space of 11 days, to achieve promotion as best runners-up in the feeder leagues to the Ryman League. Last Monday a crowd of 1,704, the best of the season, saw the exhausted Green Lions complete a fourth victory in four days to finish with 96 points and 131 goals from their 42 matches, two points behind champions Egham Town. Despite inevitable injuries and fatigue during their 20 games in the final 35 days, club president Matt Le Tissier, now 44, was only required for 10 minutes as a substitute.

Programme malfunction

Fixture congestion seemed to cause some confusion for FC United of Manchester, whose bumper crowd for the final day of the regular season, 2,124 against Frickley Athletic at Gigg Lane, saw a 3-0 win to confirm the club's highest placing to date (third in the Evostik Northern Premier League) but no match programme to remember the occasion by. The printers had run off the wrong one so that the Frickley game was only available online until copies went on sale three days later for the play-off semi-final against Witton. A crowd of 2,492 turned up to see Witton beaten but in yesterday's play-off final they lost 2-1 at Hednesford Town.

Worldwide Webb turns up

It has emerged that the Midlands Women's Combination League Cup final played at Stafford Rangers' ground was refereed by none other than Howard Webb – three days before taking the Champions' League semi-final at the Bernabeu Stadium in which Borussia Dortmund beat Real Madrid. In the big one, Stoke City Ladies beat Leafield Athletic 8-4 to complete a Treble. Fans who also follow the local men's team under Tony Pulis may have noticed a contrast in styles. The Ladies' manager, Andy Frost, believes it is the change to a passing style which has led to such success. Over to you, TP.

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

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