United's Year of The Pig

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL DIARY Ken Hom is picking up his bed of rice and wok-ing all the way to Manchester to help United overcome their traumatic week and see in the Year of the Pig, in which dedication, graft, team spirit and eating well are the keys to success. (So who needs Gallic skill anyway?). On Monday the master of Chinese cuisine will be cooking up culinary delights at Old Trafford, where French food is no doubt off the menu after Eric Cantona served up his own brand of bouillabaisse at Selhurst Park. Ken aims to set up his favourite footballers for a feast of a year with dishes made from pork, which brings success; fish, for wealth; noodles, for long life; and vegetables, for good luck (though Graham Taylor might not see swedes and turnips as allies).

*** Back in the mid-Seventies when hooliganism was the scourge, United made strenuous efforts to stop the the club's name being besmirched, using a poster (below) as part of the campaign. Is the boot on the other foot now?

Fill yer boots, the Potteries injunction to take what you can, when you can, has an alternative meaning for Sir Stanley Matthews. The Wizard of the Dribble, who celebrates his 80th birthday on Wednesday, has revealed that as a boy he learned the sprinters' trick of inserting a lead plate into their shoes to fool the handicappers monitoring the heats at local sports meetings. He would do the same the morning before a match, removing the metal just in time to feel fleet-footed during the game. n *** Talking of boots, Sir Stan hung his up in 1965, aged 50. Less widely known, except by the anorak faction among Port Vale fans, is that the famous footwear claimed one final League goal later that year. It was for Vale, the club Matthews followed in his youth and was then managing, though he was only an onlooker. A Scottish teenager called Roddy Georgeson borrowed the maestro's pair, and has a picture of himself tangled up in the Rochdale net after scoring to remember it by.

*** A teenage striker making a bold move is Samarma Haldon. The 18-year-old Palestinian is leaving his amateur team in Hebron to sign for Hapoel Beer Sheva in Israel. He was spotted when scoring for Palestine against a French representative XI.

*** Any of you who think the contents of an Arsenal shirt are good for nothing should be ashamed. Norman Williams, who enjoys angling and Arsenal, knows better. Norman dyed his bait red and white and landed a match-winning haul of perch. However, he did say: "The maggots looked a bit like the Arsenal first team - streaky with no sense of direction."

*** It really is a tough life being a referee, as Cumbria's youngest, 11-year-old Paul Taylor, can testify from his experience of officiating in Sunday morning games. "I've been threatened by older boys on the pitch that if decisions don't go the right way I'll be in trouble," Paul, a referee's son, said.

*** Mansfield seem to be doing OK out of the number 13. After Saturday's game they had played 13, winning six, two and losing five and scoring 26 goals both at home and away. They have conceded a total of 39 goals - 13 in their first 13 games and 26 in the next 13. Thanks to W Wilkes, of Coventry, for spotting that.

n Any mention of music sets you all off. An operatic line-up including La Bowen and Madden Butterfly almost swung the Wild Turkey Bourbon, but it goes to M Casserley, of Berkhamstead, for: MUSICALS XI: Starlight ExPRESSMAN; A Star OSBORN, Guys and DOLLs,SINCLHAIR, CarouSELLEY, Half a SIXpence, CabaROY, Five Guys Called MO Johnston, South PAZific, GodsPELE, Sunset BULLevarde.

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