Outside the Box: Neville begins to turn green as he heads for pastures new
Sunday 15 May 2011
Sky Sports' new pundit Gary Neville is hoping the exorbitant price of tickets for the Champions' League final, travel to Wembley and overnight accommodation (it is an evening kick-off) will not adversely affect the attendance at his testimonial match between Manchester United and Juventus on Tuesday week, from which proceeds will go to local community projects.
Ideally it would have taken place a week later, offering the possibility of celebrating a win over Barcelona and parading the trophy round Old Trafford. But that would have meant clashing with an international week, so United must now risk players picking up an injury four days before the final.
Better news is the fact that Neville has finally received permission to build an £8m home near Bolton, despite complaints from residents that it was on greenbelt land. Last year planning permission was refused, but it has been granted after he agreed to reduce the size of a 120-foot wind turbine. Architects are claiming the house will be one of the greenest in the country.
Seasiders are above average
With the clubs at the bottom of the Premier League so tightly bunched, it is just as well for most of us that teams level on points are separated by goal difference rather than the more complicated goal average.
Under the latter system, used until 1975, goals scored were divided by goals conceded, which led to all manner of complicated calculations to several decimal points. But Blackpool might wish the old system still existed.
Going into this weekend's fixtures, their average of 0.6901 would have put them ahead of Wolves' 0.6613; similarly West Ham would have been ahead of Wigan before today's crucial game against them.
The greatest beneficiaries of the change were Arsenal in 1989, able to claim the championship by winning the final match away to Liverpool, whose goal average under the old system would have been far superior. By winning 2-0, George Graham's team were able to draw level on points and goal difference, taking the title by virtue of having scored more.
Albion supremacy in the bag?
The North-west and London may be dominating the upper reaches of the Premier League but bitter local rivalry will keep clubs from the North-east and West Midlands going until next weekend's final games.
Newcastle and Sunderland are neck-and-neck and Aston Villa's long-established dominance locally is under serious threat after eight years. Not since 2003, when Birmingham finished three places above them, have Villa been bettered by any of their immediate rivals but defeat by West Bromwich Albion two weeks ago has left them staring up at the Baggies as they travel to Arsenal today.
West Brom have not finished above them since 1979, and Coventry City were the only other local side to challenge their supremacy in between times.
It's the cloggers not Cleggers
News reaches us of an unlikely new coalition between Labour and Conservative MPs, who are joining forces in the UK Parliamentary Football Club XI to take on a team of celebrities and former sports stars at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday morning (kick-off 9.45am).
The match, sponsored by National Grid, is in aid of the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, with celebs including Angus Deayton, Omid Djalili, Ralf Little, Kyran Bracken, Dalton Grant and Darren Campbell.
Labour appears to have a clear majority in a squad that cunningly includes as a guest the much-travelled former England Under-21 international Marco Gabbiadini. Dermot Gallagher – political persuasion unknown – will referee.
And another good cause: while the Premier League's superstars head for a Dubai beach this summer, a group of Doncaster Rovers players will trek through the Andes to raise £50,000 for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
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