Inside Lines: Big Mac makes special case for football to be more saintly

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The Independent Online

Lawrie McMenemy, who 35 years ago helped create the most memorable day in Southampton's history when he led them to a momentous FA Cup final triumph over Manchester United, wasn't at St Mary's last week when the Saints failed to repeat the victory.

He wasn't invited – the new regime led by Italian banker Nicola Cortese making it clear there were no spare tickets for legends. This despite his long association with Southampton as manager for 12 years, director and consultant.

Nor is there a once-regular guest place in the directors' box, and when he does go to League One matches he has been told to use a side entrance; apparently he is no longer considered VIP enough to enter through the foyer.

But Big Mac MBE, 74, will get a warmer welcome at the Premier League's HQ tomorrow when football shows a more saintly attitude by hosting the Special Olympics' first-ever Football Development Strategy. McMenemy, as president of Special Olympics GB, will explain how football clubs and organisations can support the growth of the sport for those with learning disabilities.

Bigwigs including the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, and the Professional Football Association's Gordon Taylor will be on hand to discuss ways of helping to raise funds and awareness for a project that is obviously worthy but also worthwhile.

McMenemy tells us: "There are 1.2 million people in this country with learning disabilities. Football seems awash with money at the moment so here is an opportunity to help them express themselves through our most popular sport."

Crying game for Danson

Alex Danson, the sharp-shooting GB women's hockey star featured recently in our Going for Gold series, has repeated the perverse scoring feat achieved by Denis Law for Manchester City 50 years ago by netting six goals and still ending up on the losing side. Law did so in an FA Cup tie at Luton, but the match was then abandoned because of a flooded pitch and City lost the replay.

Danson's half-dozen came for Reading against Bowdon Hightown in the aptly named Super Sixes national indoor final at Wembley last week. Alas, Bowdon won 9-8 on penalties. No wonder Danson says she went home "and had a damn good cry".

Keeping track of Coe

More than just retaining the track at the Olympic Stadium seems at stake for Lord Coe.

Should Spurs win the fight to take it over after the Games, the 2012 chief's ambition of becoming president of the International Association of Athletics Federations could fall by the trackside. IAAF members, especially their president, Lamine Diack, will not take kindly to seeing the pledge made when London won the Olympic bid being discarded; it could tip the balance in favour of Coe's main rival, the former pole vault star Sergei Bubka.

The Ukrainian will no doubt be ear-bending the sporting glitterati at this weekend's Laureus Awards in Abu Dhabi, where the heptathlete Jessica Ennis has been shortlisted for World Sportswoman of the Year. Other award nominees are BMX star Jamie Bestwick and Colin Montgomerie's Ryder Cup team.

From Russia with gloves

Britain's amateur boxers have some pretty tough fights on their hands as the momentum builds towards 2012 – starting with the Bocskai tournament in Hungary this week and the Strandja Cup in Bulgaria. The latter includes a women's event involving Britain's Nicola Adams, Natasha Jones and Savannah Marshall, while among the men are the fierce lightweight rivals Tom Stalker and Martin Ward.

Says head coach Rob McCracken: "These tournaments will be a good test for the Olympics as well as the European and World Championships later this year."

The men's squad have just undergone a 10-day boot camp with the Russian team in Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's home town of Kislovodsk. In return the Russians visit Team GB's state-of-the-art HQ in Sheffield in March.