Outside the Box: What's first? Roses reformation or a City European coronation

 

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The Independent Football

The Stone Roses bassist Mani, a Manchester United fanatic, said derisively five years ago that the band would re-form the day after Manchester City won the European Cup; to be fair, he was speaking at a time when City were in the bottom six of the Premier League, with Stuart Pearce as manager, plus Georgi Samaras and Darius Vassell as star strikers.

With last week's announcement that the Manc heroes are indeed returning (the Roses, not Samaras and Vassell), it is conceivable that for all City's moderate European form, both apocalyptic events could now occur in close proximity – the reunion concerts take place in Heaton Park on 29 and 30 June, little more than a month after the Champions' League final in Munich on 19 May.

Keeper has the X-Factor

At the other end of the rock-pop spectrum, the devastating news that Westlife are splitting up reminds us of the part played in popular music history by the much travelled Paul Hart, who managed eight clubs and is currently the academy director at Charlton Athletic.

Hart it was, as youth team coach at Leeds United, who recommended that the Irish Under-18 goalkeeper Nicky Byrne should be allowed to leave Elland Road because a lad called Paul Robinson looked the better bet.

Robinson had been picked ahead of him in the team that won the FA Youth Cup in 1997, so Byrne was not offered a new contract. He returned to his native Dublin to play for Shelbourne and two other League of Ireland clubs before being spotted at a singing audition by the Boyzone manager and, later, X Factor judge, Louis Walsh, who was forming a new boy-band.

Westlife have subsequently sold 44 million records and had 14 No 1 singles and seven No 1 albums, though Byrne, now 33, is doubtless proudest of his No 1 hit in Ireland with the 2002 Republic of Ireland World Cup squad's "Here Come The Good Times".

A career on the charity football circuit surely beckons: a Celtic fan, he played in front of 54,000 at Parkhead against a Manchester United Legends XI this season and also appeared in the Hillsborough Memorial match at Anfield two years ago.

The right and the wrong way

Penalty watch: Following our feature two weeks ago pointing out that 50 per cent of all penalties in the Premier League had been missed, the trend continued precisely in last weekend's games. Rafael van der Vaart scored comfortably for Tottenham at Newcastle, but Kevin Davies had his kick saved by a former Bolton team-mate Ali Al-Habsi at Wigan.

Davies had presumably not read the recent research from the University of Amsterdam pointing out that when their teams are behind and under pressure, goalkeepers tend to follow a biological instinct and dive to their right; that was where he put the ball.

Gifton leaves it all behind

Supporters of Watford, Burnley and Stoke City will remember the distinctive name of Gifton Noel-Williams, who played for each of them between 1996-2007, before briefly popping up later at Millwall and Yeovil.

The lanky striker is now being sought by an estate agent in Stoke-on-Trent who have been asked to sell a six-bedroom detached house in the Trentham Lakes area near the Britannia Stadium which he formerly rented, but which still contains his furniture.

Described as "sadly neglected" and in need of "general cosmetic improvement" it is valued at a knock-down £205,000. It now transpires, he is some 5,000 miles away in Austin, Texas, where he first went to play for Austin Aztex, the club twinned with Stoke and coached by their former striker Adrian Heath.

The Aztex have relocated to Orlando, Florida, as Orlando City but Noel-Williams stayed and is working as an assistant "soccer" coach at Brentwood Christian School, playing indoors for FC Austin.

Ominously for the prospects of any house-clearance, he told his school's magazine: "There are a few things I'll always have time for – God, my family and soccer. Anything else can wait."

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; www.twitter.com/@stevetongue

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