Outside the Box: Wembley are on their way to Wembley in the FA Cup


Not only was the Community Shield played before the summer Olympics finished last weekend, but this season's FA Cup competition was under way too; and with some unusually distinguished names.

Wembley – the club, not the venue – have recruited Terry Venables as technical adviser plus a crop of famous old boys, who helped them defeat Langford of the South Midlands League 3-2 in the extra preliminary round. The home side tired towards the end, which was understandable – the scorer of their first goal, Claudio Caniggia, who played for Argentina in the 1990 World Cup final, is now 45.

Former internationals Graeme Le Saux, Ray Parlour, 46-year-old Martin Keown and Brian McBride (Fulham and USA) were also involved, and hope to be so again on Saturday in the first preliminary round for a local derby against Uxbridge. More than 750 teams entered this season's competition and almost 170 have already been knocked out.

A 23-goal 'horror' game

The most extraordinary match of the week was the League Cup tie at Derby, in which the home side drew 5-5 with Scunthorpe after leading 3-0 and 5-3, then lost the penalty shoot-out 7-6. So the crowd saw 23 goals.

And the verdict of the visitors' inappropriately named manager, Alan Knill: "It was a horrible game." Not the post-Olympic spirit the sport is trying to foster.

Glenn can't do friendly

How was the close-season for Glenn Whelan, now Stoke City's most-capped player? Eventful.

It began with the combative midfielder being part of the Republic of Ireland side who lost all three Euro 2012 matches and were first to be eliminated. When his club went on tour to the US, Whelan was sent off in a goodwill friendly against Orlando City, Stoke's sister club co-owned by director Phil Rawlins and coached by North Staffs lad and dyed-in-the-wool Stokie Adrian Heath; they also have Tony Pulis's son Anthony in the line-up and play in red and white in recognition of the Potteries connection.

To compound the embarrassment and the parochial nature of the episode, Whelan's second bookable was to square up to the Florida club's midfielder James O'Connor, a fellow Dubliner who played more than 200 times for Stoke. Whelan then lost his passport, and when his team-mates travelled to their next match, against Sporting Kansas City, he had to take a flight to Washington DC to get a new one.

Fans want continental

The mood of Stoke's home crowd, renowned as the noisiest in the Premier League, may be worth monitoring. Manager Pulis said after beating a stylish Swansea this year with two set-piece goals that Stoke fans would not accept their team playing like the Welsh team.

The local paper, The Sentinel, has put his theory to the test with a poll asking readers whether the manager was right to say Stoke supporters would "get bored with continental-style build-up play". Surprisingly, 59 per cent said "No".

Can't stub rothmans out

The Sky Sports Football Yearbook, still known as "Rothmans" even though it changed hands and name nine years ago, is as informative as ever in its 1,056 pages, even if the detail takes deciphering in the quirky daily round-up section covering the past year.

The style here is informal to the point of eccentricity ("July 17: Japs shoo Yanks in Womens WC") and occasionally incomprehensible ("October 5: FA will no longer skirt the female idea").

Worse, this section has inexplicably adopted the American notion that sports teams are singular, hence "Man City draws blank at Baggies bargain boys". I suggest that the 24 closely printed pages might be reduced to allow more than one page of non-League tables below Blue Square level.


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