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News & Comment

Outside the Box: Victoria Ground is still derelict and Stoke fans cannot stand it

What happens to a famous old football stadium once the resident club relocate to a new home? Not much, if the owners are St Modwen, "the UK's leading regeneration specialists". Tastefully (?) named after an Irish nun believed to have performed miracles at an abbey further up the River Trent in Burton, the company bought Stoke City's Victoria Ground and were involved in building the Britannia Stadium. That was in 1997; 12 years on, to the understandable disgust of Stoke supporters, Sir Stanley Matthews' atmospheric old stamping ground still stands derelict and a former soldier, Dave Barker, is living in a tent there as part of a campaign to have it turned into a park for the local community. The saintly property developers, who can evict him at any time, are now blaming the credit crunch for stalling their ever-changing plans for the site.

Djetou likes beautiful game

No surprise to hear of a former footballer running a pub, or a newsagent's – but a beauty salon? Even if a few of the Premier League's more delicate flowers may spring to mind as potential nail-polishers and pedicurists, Martin Djetou, the barrel-chested 6ft former Fulham and Bolton defender/midfielder, would not be among them. But the Espace Djetou salon in Illkirch, Strasbourg, is where he plies his trade these days.

Three jeers for United fans

It may well be true, as Sir Alex Ferguson says, that Manchester United supporters do not fall prey to the "social disease" of booing their former players. The good reason for that, however, is surely another Fergie dictum: that no player whom the club wish to keep ever leaves. Were a current United player to agitate for a move to – let's say for the sake of argument – Real Madrid, in order to earn far more money; or to refuse to play in two important Premier League games at the start of the season, as Tottenham claim a certain Bulgarian striker did, it would be interesting to see what sort of reception he received on returning to Old Trafford in his new colours.

A bit of Fry and lorry

Back-handed compliment of the week came from the irrepressible Barry Fry on some of the colourful owners and chairmen he has worked for. Talking to the retro football magazine 'Backpass' about Dunstable's Keith Cheeseman, who was imprisoned for embezzlement, and the late Stan Flashman (who once threatened to have him buried in cement under the lorries on the M25), Fry said: "After working for those two, it stood me in good stead for dealing with Vic Jobson at Southend. As for David Sullivan, Karren Brady and David Gold when I managed Birmingham City – that was a doddle." Dunstable, as the article recalls, were the club for whom Fry, in his first managerial job, persuaded George Best to turn out at a time when he was refusing to play for Manchester United. The subsequent pre-season friendly between the clubs drew what is still Dunstable's record crowd of 10,000.

No one likes reading the same headline

Finally... it really isn't true that newspapers keep certain headlines permanently at hand, to be keyed in when appropriate. You just thought last weekend was not the first time that you had read one that said: "Trouble in the stands as Millwall lose". And you were almost certainly right.