Non-League notebook: Walker at Wembley again

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CLIVE WALKER, the former Chelsea and Woking forward who now turns out for Cheltenham Town, is not used to being marked by a defender older than himself. That is what may lie in wait for him, though, if he is selected for Sunday's FA Umbro Trophy final.

Although the Gloucestershire club can field two other strikers, Dale Watkins and Jason Eaton, who have hit 33 goals between them this term, Walker will surely play some part against Southport. The 40-year-old - he turns 41 later this month - has become a Trophy specialist, having collected winners' medals with Woking in 1994, '95 and '97.

In contrast, Southport's player-manager, Paul Futcher, who will be 42 in September, will be making his debut at the national stadium. In a distinguished Football League career which began with Chester 26 years ago, the stylish central defender never reached Wembley.

Sunday will also be a first appearance there for both clubs. "To be the manager that takes this club to Wembley for the first time in their 117- year history makes it very special," Futcher said. "And to have the chance at 41 to turn out at Wembley, when I thought the opportunity had passed me by, is something beyond my wildest dreams."

In charge at Cheltenham is Steve Cotterill who, at 33, is believed to be the youngest manager to lead out a team at a senior Wembley final. His side are the bookmakers' favourites for the Trophy, thanks largely to a closing run of six wins (including two against Southport) in eight games which saw them finish in second place behind Halifax Town in the GM Vauxhall Conference.

Southport, however, lost seven of their last eight matches and ended up in 16th place. The Lancashire club will also have less support on Sunday: they have sold about 8,000 tickets while Cheltenham have got rid of around twice that number.

The Conference will reveal its plans for a new two-tier structure next week. Subject to ratification at next month's annual general meeting, it will start the 1999-2000 season with a second division of 22 clubs - a development which would have a dramatic impact on its three feeder leagues. Bill King, the Conference chairman, said: "Our proposed revision is about clubs and fans, not the tradition of [other] competitions."

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