Football Diary

by Patrick O'Connor

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AT last, a football referee exercising common sense!

When the Doncaster Rovers striker Billy Sharp scored in the 14th minute of their Championship home game against Middlesbrough last week he 'celebrated' by revealing a message on a T-shirt underneath his Rovers shirt.

Now that is normally followed by a fussy referee flashing a yellow card but on this occasion the card stayed in the official's pocket. The message on Sharp's shirt read 'That's for you, son', a reference to his baby son Louie who died at the age of two days old, only three days previously.

Sharp was appointed captain for the game and led a minute's applause before the kick-off in a tribute to his son. He also requested a message to be read to supporters ahead of the applause. It said: “This is a minute's applause to celebrate the short life of Billy and Jade's son Louie Jacob Sharp. Born 27th October, taken by the angels on the 29th. Sleep tight son.”

After Sharp scored he revealed the message as he ran towards the home fans in celebration but referee Darren Deadman did not issue a card.

It was a fit and proper reaction on a very emotional night.

The problems besetting the Ipswich Town striker Michael Chopra seem minor compare to Sharp's misfortune.

In an interview with Sky Sports News Chopra revealed the extent of his gambling addiction, saying he could have lost as much as £2m through betting.

The player has been receiving treatment for his addiction and said he was gambling as much as £20,000 a day. And he confessed that he had played with injuries in the past in order to collect his appearance fee.

The referee in the Doncaster match thought it was the right occasion to ignore the rules but the world footballing body Fifa don't seem to be as flexible.

They have refused to allow England to display a poppy on their shirts for the friendly international against Spain on Saturday.

And this has led to an angry response from war veterans. A spokesman for Fifa said: “Fifa fully acknowledges the significance of the Poppy Appeal and the ways in which it helps commemorate Remembrance Day on 11 November each year.

“As a multinational organisation comprising over 50 different nationalities, the significance of this date will also be observed by many of its employees, who will remember family members too.

“Fifa's regulations regarding players' equipment are that they should not carry any political, religious or commercial messages. “

However George Batt, general secretary of the Normandy Veterans' Association responded by calling the decision “disgraceful.”

He added: "I'm lost for words. I can't see any harm in wearing a poppy. It's so sad. You surely don't need rules and regulations in Fifa like this? I would think about 90 per cent of the population wear them [poppies]. I think it's a bit childish because, after all is said and done, if it wasn't for us blokes, Fifa wouldn't be here."

That obviously means nothing to the mindset that says rules are rules and must never be broken.

Spare a thought for Steve Kean, beleaguered manager of Premier League strugglers Blackburn Rovers.

Blackburn have punched above their weight for many years by managing to stay in the top flight but have found it particularly hard going this season, hence moves by some sections of supporters to get Kean axed.

The club decided to impose a ban on banners inside the ground so the protest group hired a plane to fly over the ground during their game against Chelsea carrying the message 'Steve Kean Out.'

Kean claimed not to have noticed the plane as it flew above Ewood Park. Despite a brave, battling performance his side lost 1-0 and the pressure on the Scotsman is now bound to increase.

David Beckham says the next manager of the England football team after Fabio Capello steps down next year should be an Englishman.

Unfortunately he doesn't seem to have taken into account that of the current 20 Premier League managers only SIX were born in England.!