In uncertain financial times, sporting memorabilia can be an attractive investment as well as far more interesting and evocative than boring old stocks and shares. Consider, for instance, the 1,733 football lots in Sporting Gold's auction this Thursday, which takes place at Northampton Saints' Franklin's Gardens, with bidding also possible online. Star item is probably Lot 569, the official match-card for the 1902 FA Cup Final replay held at Crystal Palace between Sheffield United and Southampton; the estimate is £20,000. The programme for the 1923 Cup final, the first to be held at Wembley, is also available at an estimate of £900 to £1,000, although the following year's final (Aston Villa against Newcastle) is regarded as Wembley's rarest and valued at over £5,000. Sporting Gold's Chris Williams regards Tottenham as the most collectable club overall, influenced perhaps by the fact that a bound volume of programmes from their first League season (1908-09) once sold for a cool £24,000. For those with less deep pockets, a 1953 Spurs versus Aston Villa programme has an estimate of £5. See www.sportingold.co.uk.
Great gate for Gateshead
It would not be a good idea for a few clubs we could think of, but Mansfield Town's decision to allow supporters to pay as much as they wanted for admission to last weekend's Blue Square Premier home game with Gateshead appears to have worked in financial as well as public relations terms. Although the chairman, Andrew Perry, has been disappointingly coy about the actual receipts, they are said to have matched a normal game at least. As well they should: the attendance of 7,261 not only beat the 6,258 who watched Middlesbrough (then a Premier League club) at Field Mill in the FA Cup two seasons ago, but was three times the average and the highest for almost eight years. The Stags' players claimed to have loved the atmosphere, though you would not have known it from the result: 2-0 to Gateshead. Perry has promised a repeat of the experiment next season.
Big squeeze, then the Burp
Yet another new kick-off time to remember: after the televised Sunday FA Cup Fifth Round matches started at 2.30pm and 4.30pm last year, Crystal Palace's tie against Aston Villa on ITV1 today begins at the peculiar hour of 3.45pm, hard on the heels of the Bolton-Spurs game. Sky Sports viewers are used to the main game starting 15 minutes later, although admittedly the satellite channel does not have to squeeze in the draw for the next round and then two news bulletins before Harry Hill and his 'TV Burp'.
Folkestone point upwards
As Palace, Southampton and others have found, a 10-point deduction for going into administration usually means the first priority is to avoid a relegation struggle. For Folkestone Invicta, leaders of the Ryman League Division One South, the imminent loss of points merely looks an inconvenience on their march to promotion, if not the title. It will still leave them top, ahead of Croydon Athletic, who have a game in hand. Would they, a reader wonders, be the first team to go up after such a handicap?