Outside the Box: South African singer tries to track down Tractor Boys' pop-picker

One of South Africa's leading pop singers wants to trace a former fellow trainee at Ipswich Town and invite him to the World Cup as a thank you for putting his career on the right track; towards music rather than football. Elan Lea had trials at Portman Road 10 years ago and was hugely impressed with a player whose name he cannot remember, who was worried Lea would not be taken on. "Now if this guy was concerned, and I remember him being great, then I definitely had a reason to be concerned because I knew I wasn't the next Beckham or Messi," Lea said. He has now signed up with Universal, with a debut single being released in the UK next month, as well as "growing heart-throb status with a top placement in 'Heat' magazine's Manometer". Ipswich triallists, circa 2000, should make themselves known. It may yet prove Darren Bent's best chance of making this summer's World Cup.

Barnet at rock bottom

Barnet are luckier than they may realise to have stayed in the Football League after finishing four points clear of relegation. A table based on positions in the Noughties shows them lower than any other League club with an average finishing position of 85.7, just below Accrington Stanley. The table, produced by sportingintelligence.com, has Manchester United top with an average of 1.8. Blackpool went into yesterday's Championship play-off on a 10-year high; their average position is 52nd, while Swansea, whose seventh place in the Championship was a leap of 62 from finishing 89th seven years ago.

Pool fan is different class

Speaking of Blackpool, long-serving (long-suffering?) fan Duncan Grice almost certainly won the award for travelling furthest to yesterday's play-off final. He teaches at Dulwich College – not the one in south-east London, but in Suzhou, China – and having left early on Thursday morning, he will arrive back in Shanghai at 7.35am tomorrow, before driving two hours to Suzhou and going straight to school. Fortunately, the headmaster was sympathetic; he is a Plymouth Argyle fan. Any pupils able to watch the game might well have spotted their head of junior school: he was dressed, unlike your average Pool fan, as a Ming emperor.

Duffy suffers 'freak injury'

The Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy had to undergo life-saving surgery after suffering a freak accident in a training match on Friday night. The 18-year-old Everton defender suffered a laceration to his liver after colliding with goalkeeper Adrian Walsh at Malahide and was rushed to Mater Hospital for an emergency operation. The team surgeon John O'Byrne said: "It was a freak injury that in another 100 years of medicine, we may never see again. The intensive care staff in the Mater must be credited for their expertise and fast response which in no uncertain terms saved Shane's life."


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