Miles Kington: The battle for Europe is taking its toll of our men

Did you know there is one Premier League team playing lookalikes instead of their star players to take the pressure off them?
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The Independent Online

Yes, it has been another two nights of non-stop action in the relentless rodeo that men call European cup football! (writes our hyped-up, superactive, souped-up, dyno-charged football expert Rene McGrit, the man who has seen it all, if only on Sky TV...)

Britain's finest teams were in action on both Tuesday and Wednesday as they did battle with the cream of Continental opposition - indeed one team, the indefatigable Batley and Bingley United, were in action on both nights, owing to a mix-up in the fixture list.

"Well, Rene," manager Steve Gudgeon told me in an exclusive interview, "I am not quite sure how it happened, but we seem to have been drawn against the Greek team Paracetamolikos in the Uefa Cup on Tuesday and also against them in the Anglo-Greek League the next day. Between you and me, I had no idea there was an Anglo-Greek League, but we thought, Fair's fair, if the boys are actually out there, then one more game can't hurt."

Words that Steve Gudgeon may live to rue. In the Uefa Cup clash, Batley were leading 2-0 with 10 minutes to go, after goals from their lively Nicaraguan forward Costa Café and their deadly Uruguayan striker Latte. But then their two midfield men, Godolphin and Latymer, were sent off for falling asleep on the field, and, reduced to nine men, they let in two goals and were lucky to get a draw. The next night they fielded a second-string 11 and got hammered 4-0.

"Something's got to be done about fatigue, Rene," says Steve. "With all this European football, we're now playing up to five times a week, and travelling the rest of the time. The lads are totally knackered. Do you know what I say to them at half-time these days? I say: 'Right, boys, heads down for a bit of shut-eye, and I'll wake you in 10 minutes time'. We can't take much more of this. Did you know that there is one Premier League team which is now hiring footballers who are the spitting image of their star players and playing the lookalikes instead of the stars to take the pressure off them?"

Really? Which one is that?

"No names, no pack drill, Rene. But Sir Ron Aston might tell you."

Sir Ron Aston is the veteran manager of Midlands maestros, M1 Wanderers, who were in action Wednesday against crack Scottish team Queen O'Hogmanay, against whom they forced a convincing 0-0 draw.

"That was the result we came for, Rene," said Sir Ron last night. "Or mebbe it was the result they came for. I am sure one of us was happy with the result. I don't know - I'm that knackered!"

And is there any truth in the rumour that he has been fielding lookalike players?

"Rene, Rene," says Sir Ron. "You know me. You know me well. Ye ken me fine, I mean."

I look again at Sir Ron, alerted by this hesitancy. And I see that it is not Sir Ron. It is a look-alike Sir Ron! Plainly, even the untiring Sir Ron has been too tired to do this interview with me, and has sent in a sub. Truly, football is in a strange state. Just how strange, I find out from Sam Ponting. manager of crack London side, the Northern Line Devils.

"We were playing the Spanish side Real Timeshare, Rene, and we were taking it easy because we had already qualified, so we were strolling in at 1-1, when I get a call on my mobile during the second half, and there's a bloke calling himself Sheik Akbar or something, and he says he has just bought the club at half- time, and he's watching the game, and he'd like to see another couple of goals, and I think it's a hoax call, so I tell him to bugger off, only it turns out it's true. So I may have resigned this morning. I don't know yet."

Other results in brief

Uefa Vase

FC Begonia 1 Sporting Fuchsia 1

Inter Strelitzia 1 Racing Bouquet 1

Cally Thistle 1 Old Shamrock 1

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