Northern lights grace the capital

Ian Ridley says the Charity Shield betrays a shift in the balance of power
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The Independent Online
TODAY'S Charity Shield at Wembley again illustrates the shift in the power base of English football. Two North-west clubs, in Blackburn Rovers and Everton, are contesting the match, and it might be that the FA will consider playing the game at a venue more appropriate to the teams involved in future.

The FA will be pleased if the attendance goes above 40,000, which would still raise more money for charity than the revenue from a game in the North, but the financial demands on fans from whom more and more is being expected could quickly become a source of resentment.

Should ticket prices be raised for a game nearer than London, most would probably be happy to pay, given the saving in travelling costs. In addition, the sight of a full stadium rather than a half-full Wembley might lend more weight to an event which is now in danger of being submerged where once it had a weekend to itself. The Endsleigh League will probably enjoy the irony of taking some of the Premiership's limelight for once.

At present only Arsenal look capable of interrupting the North's grip on the Premiership. The capital may continue to have the quantity of teams but, as today's match shows, Lancashire continues to retain the quality. Blackburn go into the match in better shape than they did into last season's encounter with Manchester United, which they lost 2-0 when they were affected by injuries. They are still without two important defenders in Henning Berg and Colin Hendry, on international duty with Norway and Scotland respectively, and Ian Pearce may be ruled out with injury.

It could mean a debut for Adam Reed, signed from Darlington for pounds 200,000, or Chris Sutton could move back from the attack to partner Nicky Marker in the central defensive position - that may also be the position in which he is most likely to win an England cap. Kevin Gallacher is expected to play on the left of midfield because Jason Wilcox has still not quite recovered from his cruciate ligament injury.

Everton will start without many of their most famous names. Their new signing from Derby, Craig Short, is suspended for this match and next week's Premiership opening; Duncan Ferguson, ruled out of Scotland's match against Greece on Wednesday, has a groin strain; while the club captain, Dave Watson, is recovering from a foot operation and may be named as a substitute. Andrei Kanchelskis, who is away with the Russian national side, is still awaiting the outcome of a transfer arbitration panel headed by Robert Reid QC -which Manchester United have refused to attend - on his delayed move.

The transfer is being held up because Kanchelskis' previous club, Donetsk, are demanding pounds 1m of the pounds 5m fee that Everton have agreed to pay. Manchester United have refused to let the player go on that basis. On Friday it was revealed that the man who arranged for the sell-on clause to be inserted into Kanchelskis's contract was Rune Hauge, the Norwegian agent involved in the George Graham illegal payments case. Hauge was suspended from Fifa's list of approved agents last week.

Because of the unusual circumstances that have caused the delay, the FA yesterday asked Uefa to make Kanchelskis a special case and extend the deadline to register him for European competition beyond this Tuesday.

Everton will be relying on the Ukrainian to help them to progress in Europe. If the matter is not resolved swiftly, the club will even miss the deadline to register the winger for their opening Premiership match at Chelsea on Saturday. Everton are upset by what they consider to be delaying tactics on United's part.

Blackburn will be led out this afternoon by their former England player Ronnie Clayton while Everton give the honour to Dave Hickson, their former centre-forward who is believed to be the only man to have played for all three Merseyside league clubs - Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere.

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