Outside the Box: Van der Sar must keep out Baggies to bag new record

  • @stevetongue

Edwin van der Sar must keep out West Bromwich Albion's less-than-lethal attack for 84 minutes at the Hawthorns on Tuesday to set a new Premier League goalkeeping record. The Manchester United keeper has not been beaten in the 942 minutes since Arsenal's Samir Nasri scored the second of his two goals on 8 November. Chelsea's Petr Cech holds the current record at 1,025 minutes, which he took from United's Peter Schmeichel in 2005, but that is still short of Steve De'Ath's Football League best of 1,103 minutes for Reading and the British record for all competitive games, held by Chris Woods of Rangers, who once went unbeaten for 1,196 minutes (19 hours and 56 minutes).

FA on case of secret agents

The Football Association have just circulated a confidential warning to all professional clubs about 24 individuals it alleges may have been acting as agents, but are not licensed to do so; the newest addition to the blacklist being the former Crystal Palace striker Tony Finnegan, described last month in the press as agent to Middlesbrough's Marlon King, when the latter was arrested for allegedly assaulting a woman in a bar. The football industry will probably manage to stagger on without the 24 – the number of official Fifa agents left in England is no fewer than 370.

Burnley's one that got away

Annual confusion about away goals in the Carling Cup semi-finals reared its head again last week. Sky's commentators had to remind viewers every few minutes that – unlike the European competitions everyone is now used to – away goals do not come into consideration until AFTER extra time. Under the more logical European rules, Burnley would have gone through after 90 minutes, and Derby's late comeback at Old Trafford would have been more exciting. Instead, the two bigger clubs knew they had the safety valve of an extra 30 minutes to assert themselves.

How the tables turn

Confusion, too, over the Blue Square Premier League table, with Mansfield Town currently shown as having points deducted, while Crawley Town and Oxford United are not, despite having received the same punishment. The Press Association, who distribute fixtures, results and tables to media organisations, explain that official policy is not to show the deductions until any appeals have been heard. All three clubs, and Bognor Regis in the Blue Square South, were punished for fielding an ineligible player but there is widespread dissatisfaction with the League's new registration procedures, which were put in place after a move to offices in Birmingham last summer. To prevent more communication breakdowns, every player's registration number must now be entered on the official teamsheet.

Star is fizzling out

Finally... distressing rumours reach us that Wolverhampton's 'Sporting Star', one of the last of the great Saturday- night sports papers, may not be long for this world. There was a time when every football town had such a publication, normally printed on coloured paper. It was a small miracle of production, on sale an hour or so after the final whistle. The 'Sporting Star', we are told, should be around to see Wolves in the Premier League next season, but is only hanging on until the current supply of pink newsprint runs out.