Outside the Box: Scharner makes sweet music at the Midlands culture club


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The Independent Football

Whether in his previous incarnation at Wigan with goatee beard and shades or more recently at West Bromwich Albion in heavy black glasses, Paul Scharner does not come across as your average Premier League player.

After one Match of the Day interview this season, the studio pundits were chuckling about how he doesn't look like a footballer at all. Now he has done further damage to sporting stereotypes by appearing on Radio 3 to discuss his favourite music with presenter Michael Berkeley.

Not for the Austrian utility player any common or garden R'n'B, garage or even indie rock. Befitting a man who originates from the home of Johann Strauss, he chose a horn concerto and piano sonata by Mozart, the Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II, a violin concerto by Beethoven, Grieg's Norwegian Dance and part of Verdi's Aida recorded live at La Scala in Milan. Presumably he never gets to choose the pre-match music in the dressing-room.

Just as untypically, he has twice invited selected Midlands media representatives to a "meet and greet" session in a Birmingham hotel room with snacks including Austrian Rumkugel chocolates, followed by a power point presentation of his finest goals. Possibly uncertain how to react to such an unconventional character, Albion team-mates have tried several nicknames.

"First, I was Action Man, then I was Mr Moanivator, now I'm Roy Hodgson," he told the Birmingham Mail. "It's because Roy has been moaning a lot in the last few weeks to try and make us finish as high as possible."

Crawley's angels in disguise

Sports fans who like a good fight have been digesting footage of the eventful end to last Tuesday's League Two match at Bradford City, when Crawley Town's late 2-1 win was followed by a full-scale brawl, after which the referee red-carded no fewer than five players. More disciplinary action may yet follow, when Football Association officials finally sort out who did what to whom.

An alert Outside the Box reader points out that there have now been 18 dismissals in Crawley matches this season, yet only five of them to the controversial Steve Evans's players. Are they, he asks, angels in disguise? Or possibly supreme wind-up merchants?

Hill hold moral high ground

On a similar theme, the vexing case of the Brentwood Sunday League goes on without resolution. To recap, Harold Hill FC were voted out of the league last summer because other clubs alleged that they were too dirty. The Essex FA disagreed and fined the league £1,000, insisting that Harold Hill should be awarded three points every time a team refused to play them.

Since then the league has been suspended, lost several of its officials and has now launched an appeal to the Football Association, fearing that it will have to fold altogether. An Essex FA official said: "The league had not charged Harold Hill with any offence not covered under field misconduct, so therefore they had to reinstate the team into their competition."

Hooligans beating a retreat?

Have football hooligans disappeared, or merely been priced out of the Premier League? That is the question which will be debated, in French and English, at the Institut Français in London on Thursday week. "A large number of specialists believe that it is mainly the price of tickets that has forced this group of people (the majority of whom are unemployed) to desert the Premier League stadiums for those of inferior leagues where, precisely, the behaviour persists" runs the blurb.

Speakers include John Williams, co-author of The Roots of Football Hooliganism and, more surprisingly, former France and London Wasps captain Serge Betsen, who has presumably not experienced too much violence – off the pitch at least – at Adams Park.

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