The Sweeper: Wor Kev will not be halted by war

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The Independent Online
DESPITE BOMBING close to the border with Hungary as the Kosovo conflict intensified on Thursday, the Football Association said yesterday that it has no intention of cancelling England's friendly with Hungary in Budapest on 28 April.

"The view we take at the moment is that if it's safe for Manchester United to play in a neighbouring country from where all the bombers are taking off [the European Cup semi-final, second leg in Turin], then it's safe enough for England to play in Hungary," said an FA spokesperson, Steve Double, yesterday.

The friendly is coming under increasing criticism in some circles, not so much because of the safety factor but because of the timing of the game which clashes with the climax to the season at home and abroad.

Kevin Keegan, the England coach, is sympathetic to the demands of the clubs involved and is expected not to draw too heavily on the resources of championship contenders Arsenal and Manchester United when he names his squad next Thursday. Chelsea, still involved on two fronts, will, of course, be much less affected by call-ups with only one player, Graeme Le Saux, in contention for England selection.

ONE WONDERS whether the Draconian measures of the FA in dealing with Robbie Fowler for his cocaine-snorting mime might stretch a little further afield on Merseyside, in the direction of Prenton Park, for instance. If the Liverpool striker was foolish to do what he did, for which he incurred a pounds 32,000 fine and a four-match ban, then the Tranmere Rovers manager John Aldridge is doubly so. In his autobiography, John Aldridge: My Story, which has just gone on sale, he details, from his playing days, an off- the-ball incident involving himself and an opponent. I quote: "Typically, I sought retribution. I waited for the ball to go into the other half of the field, checked to see if the referee and linesman were looking elsewhere and walked towards the defender. To make sure he didn't suspect I was after revenge, I avoided eye contact and walked past him. Then I turned and elbowed him full in the face. The defender dropped to the floor and lay there motionless." A reader voiced his complaint about the passage in a letter to Liverpool's Football Echo last week but it met with an unsympathetic response from the newspaper's letters' editor. Who is he? Tommy Smith. Enough said.

FOR SOME people it was inevitable that George Graham would bring success to Tottenham, but winning a major trophy in his first season in charge and going as close as they did last Sunday to reaching a second Wembley final exceeded the expectations of his most ardent fans. He has certainly exceeded the life-time expectations of his one-time Gunners' boss Don Howe. In his Sports Argus column recently, Howe wrote of his protege: "If there was ever a player who I felt definitely did not have what it took to be a top coach it was George Graham! Running a night club? Yes. Running a football club? Absolutely not. The man who has built his success first and foremost on one simple ethos - discipline - was the kind of player who was always after an easy training session, a "fun morning", as he called them, so he could just flick the ball around instead of doing some hard work. He was regularly hauled into the manager's office at Arsenal and told to start working harder. Bertie Mee would even resort to dropping him four or five times during a season to pull him into line... it probably won't come as much of a surprise that his nickname was `Stroller'." So the next time he lays into you, Ginola, about not working hard enough...

AT LEAST David Ginola can expect a better send-off from George Graham, if and when he leaves Tottenham, than the former Spur Vinny Samways got when he left Everton three years ago. "I'd like to wish Vinny well," said the then Everton manager Joe Royle, "and thank him for the one match we won while he was in our first-team." Samways, a player of deft touch and control, was not always fully appreciated by some in England (though, unlike Ginola, he has won an FA Cup winners' medal), but he now appears to have found his natural habitat at Copacabana - that's the British-style pub he runs in Grand Canaria where he now plays for the Spanish Second Division side, not the breeding ground of Ronaldo and co.

Because of Uefa's insistence that the FA Cup must have an entrant in the Uefa Cup next season it means that had relegation-threatened Everton beaten Newcastle United in their quarter-final last month, the Toffees, instead of the Geordies, would almost certainly have been European-bound, due to the fact that the other semi-finalists are already guaranteed European football - Manchester United and Arsenal probably in the Champions' League and Tottenham in the Uefa Cup. I bet Liverpool would have loved that.

FOR TWO seasons the residents on a new housing estate in Sunderland (built on a former football pitch) have been in hope that the Wearsiders would return to the Premiership. On Tuesday evening they could finally afford to celebrate, none more so than those like season ticket holder Susan Charlton who lives in Promotion Close. "Kevin Phillips is my favourite player, it's ironic that he should score four," said the 31-year-old primary school teacher who lives, naturally enough, at No 10 Roker Park Estate.