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Coventry City's dismissal of Phil Neal and the appointment of Ron Atkinson as manager in his place is typical of what happens when a club is struggling. What else should they do? Rightly or wrongly, the message that such a move sends out is like an SOS: "We're in trouble, we needed to do something drastic, so we sacked the manager." The new man will need a magic wand, especially if he is your sixth manager in less than five years. But continually changing your manager is not always detrimental. Take the Italian club, Ascoli. The Anglo-Italian Cup might not be that exciting, but they are in the final and they have got there after a veritable merry-go-round in the coach's office. They have made no fewer than 25 changes in the past 26 years. Remarkably, several of their coaches have come back for more and many of them have been highly successful. Among them are Signori Mazzone, Capello, Boskov, Bersellini . . . ***

Apparently none of us who questioned Fulham's idea of selling their home match against Third Division strugglers Northampton as a Valentine's Day treat for true romantics should be surprised at how successful it proved. And an exciting 4-4 was just the thing. According to Professor Noel Dilly of St George's Hospital, London, who contributed to Radio 4's "True Love - At Last, Scientific Proof", the excitement of a football match can be just the thing to give romantic affairs a push. This is not, of course, an original idea. It's as old as the hills. "The ancient Romans used to take their dates down to see the slaves getting torn apart by the lions, and through history that has been a good way to get off with someone apparently," according to a Radio 4 spokeswoman. So that settles this afternoon's entertainment then. Everybody down to Loftus Road to watch Rangers being thrown to Millwall.

*** Paul Gascoigne has joined the band of players who have been banned by their clubs from riding a Harley-Davidson. Shame really. Electra Glide sounds like an Italian midfielder in full flow.

Should Dennis Wise be thrown in clink as a result of his difference of opinion with a taxi driver, then he could do worse than wile away the hours by watching Channel 4. Liam Morris, of Leicestershire, spotted a suitable sequence of programmes on the station last Sunday to put the Chelsea captain to rights. During the morning, Dennis was followed by Wise Up and Tales of a Wise King.

***

Absence has not done much for Romario's fondness for playing for Brazil. His on-off international career, interrupted in 1993 after he objected to being dropped for a friendly, is off again. This time he only grudgingly accepted a call to play in a friendly against Slovakia. He was persuaded to join the squad by his Flamengo club president, but on hearing of Romario's indifference, the Brazilian federation told the national coach, Mario Zagalo, to drop the former Barcelona striker.

***

The women's World Cup in June will be policed by women. Organisers say it will be the largest Swedish police task to be carried out by a women- only force.

***

Highbury always resounds to music as the Arsenal line-up is unveiled on the Jumbotron screens. Last week the tune was "Pick Up the Pieces" by a group one Gunners fan referred to as The Below Average Red-and-white Band. What comes next?

Romance does odd things to people. They have ideas like Red Rosarios and even Sir Stanley A-Rouse-l. The Wild Turkey goes to Elaine Bisco, of Plymouth, for:

ROMANTIC XI: NELSON and (Emma) HAMILTON, EDWARDS VIII and Mrs SIMPSON, (Rhett) BUTLER, (St) VALENTINE, (Liz) TAYLOR and (Richard) BARTON, (Celia) JOHNSON and (Trevor) HOWARD, PARRIS.

Next week: a Poetic XI Entries to: Team Spirit, Football Diary, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL.

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