Outside the Box: Pop video star Pearce has chart glory in his sights

By Steve Tongue

Is Stuart Pearce the first serving England coach to appear in a pop video as a nightclub bouncer? Almost certainly. The Football Association's most celebrated punk-rock fan (Fabio Capello not being a contender for that title) took on the role to help promote the single released tomorrow by a Nottingham band called The Establishment, who have all sorts of football connections. They are managed by former Manchester United, Coventry and Aston Villa striker Dion Dublin and include guitarist John Burns, a Dubliner given the unhelpful tag of "the new Roy Keane" when he joined Nottingham Forest in the mid-Nineties. He eventually made 19 League appearances for Forest, Bristol City and Carlisle United from 1999 to 2003. The Professional Footballers' Association, who help former players to find new work, contributed to the costs of the band's first EP, and Des Walker recruited his former England team-mates Pearce, Les Ferdinand and Teddy Sheringham for the video, currently available on YouTube.

Stiff debate over reserves

The future of reserve-team football is being debated once again in both England and Scotland, with the intriguing suggestion from north of the border that the "stiffs" from Rangers, Celtic, Hearts and Hibernian could compete in a revamped Scottish third division. They currently have no competition to play in after the Scottish Premier Reserve League was disbanded last year. Meanwhile, there is a complicated new format in England this season: one southern group and two northern ones, with clubs playing teams in their own section twice and teams from the other groups once; i.e. Arsenal play Chelsea twice and Manchester United once. Four clubs – Birmingham, Fulham, Stoke and Tottenham – have declined to compete, preferring to send players out on loan and/or arrange friendly games at their convenience. Fielding a reserve team in a lower division is common practice in countries like Spain, where Real Madrid's second string, Castilla, have long been a force in the second division (though they cannot be promoted) and even played in the European Cup-Winners' Cup. In 1980 they met the FA Cup holders, West Ham, winning at home as Hammers fans rioted but losing 5-1 in the away leg, which was played behind closed doors in front of a crowd of journalists and officials recorded as 262.

Blade shows footy can cut it

Thanks to the Sheffield United striker Danny Bogdanovic, football can just about hold its head up in the fitness stakes with rugby league and cricket after a series of trials run by the sports nutrition company Multipower. Bogdanovic and two young Blades, Matt Lowton and James Kingsley, took on players from Castleford Tigers and Yorkshire CCC in tests devised by Dean Riddle, a strength and conditioning coach. Individual honours were shared by Bogdanovic, a 30-year-old Maltese international who joined the club last summer from Barnsley, and Yorkshire's Jonny Bairstow, although it was Castleford who won the team event. Talking of blades, following recent injuries to players like Antonio Valencia and Fraizer Campbell, Sunderland's manager Steve Bruce has called for an inquiry into the use of bladed sole-plate football boots. Myerscough College, a sports college near Preston, has just completed a study on blades versus studs, concluding that blades damage playing surfaces a lot quicker than studded boots, raising the risk to players.

Oldest card of all

Following last week's item on football programmes comes a new claim to be the oldest known match-card. Andy Mitchell, late of the Scottish Football Association, writes to say there was a card issued for the England-Scotland international of 1873 at the Kennington Oval. He has illustrated it on his website devoted to Lord Kinnaird, who won his only cap for Scotland in the game, as well as appearing in nine of the first 12 FA Cup finals and becoming FA president. Go to www.lordkinnaird.com.


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