The Diary: Robsons show fine early form

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CAPTAIN MARVEL is back. Bryan Robson, erstwhile England rescuer, struck in Surrey and Devon on Wednesday night. 170 miles apart. Within an hour. First came the 6.50 at Sandown Park. The four-legged Bryan Robson, owned by a syndicate which also races Platini, produced a fabulous finish to win. Then the man himself scored Middlesbrough's first in a pre-season workout at Torquay United. The verdict on the horse's victory makes encouraging reading for Boro fans: 'Soon driven along in mid-division . . . strong run inside final furlong to lead post'. Promotion portents?

ANOTHER familiar footballing name from the 1980s was back in the news this week - Andoni Goicoechea. While making last Monday's On The Line on cheating, a BBC crew visited the Butcher of Bilbao. Goicoechea, who keeps the boots that rearranged Diego Maradona's Achilles in a glass case on his TV, proved Mr Hospitality himself, even presenting Auntie's envoys with a bottle of his own Goicoechea Rioja. The bottle label even features a Goyaesque painting of the Tippler of Bilbao.

O J SIMPSON, king of the offense, is now relying on a strong defense. Lawyers for the incarcerated former American footballer are milking memories about Simpson's pro career. The phone-number - 1-800-322-36-32 - set up to elicit information about the murders Simpson is charged with contains highly significant digits. Simpson wore numbers 36 and 32 during his life as a running-back.

THE top climber's jersey at the upcoming Tour of Britain is a bit of a mouthful: the Kellogg's Pop Tarts King of the Mountains.

AS footballers do, Claudio Taffarel left dollars 60,000 in the back of a taxi the other day. For good measure, the Brazilian keeper also dropped his World Cup-winner's medal plus passport. The LA cabbie, Juan Blanco, eventually discovered the disconsolate Taffarel at his hotel talking to Brazilian television. After receiving a dollars 1,000 reward, an autograph and a huge hug from the keeper, Blanco, in turn, was interviewed by Brazilian TV.

THE Muppets are on a mission at the Commodores' Cup in the Solent. Pigs In Space, a Mumm 36 boat, was named thoughtfully. 'Too many people out there are taking themselves too seriously,' David Clarke, Pigs' owner, said, 'we wanted to remind them it's meant to be for fun.'

THE St Petersburg organisers of the Goodwill Games are being helped by the Old Enemy. De- commissioned US military bases in Germany have been opened to allow the Russians to pick any supplies they need - at the latest total dollars 4m worth. Old habits die hard, though. 'We did walk by some tanks at one base capable of launching nuclear weapons,' Joe Freddoso, the American director of operations, said. 'One Russian said to me: 'We have those, too'.' Just kidding.

THE World Cup Songs XI invited a myriad 'You've Lost That Loving Phelan' and 'Here Come's Sammer'. Other post-bag highlights included 'Waiting for the Robert E Lee Jong Hwa', 'Abraham, (Alvin) Martin and John', 'Yellow Polka Dot Yekini' and the inspired Klinsmann entries, 'Jurgen a lose that girl' and 'Arc of a Diver'. But the Wild Turkey Bourbon goes to Richard Warren, of Coventry, for this . . .

SONGS XI (4-4-2): 'If I were a BELL' (Cameroon); 'McArthur PARK' (South Korea), 'SANDY' (Bolivia), 'Hang down your head TOM DOOLEY' (US), 'I dream of Jeannie with light brown HERR' (Switzerland); 'WINTER Wonderland' (Netherlands), 'AMIN the mood for dancing' (Saudi Arabia), 'Singing in the REHN' (Sweden), 'Burlington BERTI' (Italy); 'Move over DAHLIN' (Sweden), 'TCHAMI the way to go home' (Cameroon).'

Next week's challenge: a cricketing song XI. Sports Diary, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.