Sport on the Internet

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The Independent Online
THE EMOTIONAL roller-coaster of the play-off finals continues at Wembley today when Watford and Bolton battle for next season's remaining Premiership place. The Internet will provide instant solace or a forum for jubilation as the game goes on, and afterwards.

Bolton's official site has a message system under its chat link for those who like to post messages as they watch the match on television or listen to it on radio. For overseas fans, whose local stations do not carry the match, a mix of message boards and a Real Audio Webcast is as close an approximation to being in the stadium as the Web delivers. Real time chat rooms are better, but neither club appears to have them on site. However, both sites do have links to live radio commentary for the match, though.

Bolton's site is a lively one with plenty of video and audio clips. In the run-up to the game it was a good source of news and opinion from inside Reebok Stadium. Colin Todd laid out his plans for players to treat the play-off as just another game. Speculation on site suggested that the squad would turn up at Wembley wearing tracksuits and trainers instead of traditional suits.

The defender Mike Whitlow, twice a winner and twice a loser at that "special place", revealed a unique training schedule. Returning from injury and hoping for a place in the squad, he reassured site visitors that: "I feel stronger and fitter now and have been kicking Bob Taylor regularly in training." Must be toughening him up, Whitlow reckons the striker will prove decisive today.

Watford's site is available in two versions: an all-singing Java and Javascript version as well as one which is less jazzy, but still has all the text and action pictures. Last week the euphoric emphasis was still on the semi-final victory over Birmingham (the fall-out from that match also featured heavily on the Birmingham site), but a box counting down to Wembley was also prominent, recording the seconds falling away.

The site is designed to mirror the match programme, but with Internet add-ons, such as online forms to send the team messages, and an e-mail alert for when the news pages are updated - their record is 17 updates on one match day. They should be busy today.

A few weeks ago, the search engines were not turning up any official presence for Wembley National Stadium. They are now. The official site has plenty of information about the ground's history. There is also a timeline heading into the future and the construction of the new stadium, where there will be Web cams running throughout. Like the stadium, the site is also set to develop. Watch out for the online walk-throughs of the new ground. Ultimately the intention is to get e-commerce rolling. Ticketing in the new stadium is an aim. Before then, as the old ground is demolished, fans will have the chance to buy memorabilia such as seats, features and signs. A form to request details is already online. Site Addresses

Bolton Wanderers FC http://www.boltonwfc.co.uk/

Watford Football Club Website http://www.watfordfc.com/

Birmingham City FC http://www.bcfc.com/

Wembley National Stadium http://www.wembleynationalstadium.com

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