Football Diary

by Patrick O'Connor


IT'S not very often that I praise the Football Association but they definitely deserve a pat on the back for their bid to halt the decline of men playing the 11 a side game.

A £200m investment scheme in grass roots football includes improving access and quality of pitches.

The worry is that many people stop playing football between the ages of 14 and 19 which cannot be good for the health of the nation''s youth.

The FA's National Game Strategy also aims to raise standards of behaviour amongst players and spectators

They say they will “ensure respect is underpinned by robust sanctions” although I'm convinced that being even firmer with misbehaving professional players will help.

Two of our Championship sides could certainly do with a hefty wedge of cash from Santa this Christmas.

Bristol City have announced losses of £11.45m for the year ending May 2011 which has been put down in part to rising player wages.

Chairman Colin Sexstone told BBC Radio Bristol: “It's a big problem. Wages in the Championship are far too big and at Bristol City in particular they are just too much.”

He added: “We've certainly got too many players. Keith Millen [former manager] thought that and I'm sure Derek [McInnes, current manager] does too, and some of them are earning too much.”

And Portsmouth's chairman Vladimir Antonov has resigned after the club's parent company Convers Sports Initiatives (CSI) entered administration.

Accountants Hacker Young, who handled Pompey's administration in 2010, have been named to handle CSI's insolvency.

In a statement Portsmouth chief executive David Lampitt said: “It's incredibly disappointing for the club to find itself in this position.”

But the club insist that: “Portsmouth Football Club (2010) Limited - the company that operates PFC - is not in administration and continues to trade.”

Mind you, no such worries for Manchester City who spend £9.66m alone on agents' fees over the past year, more than any other Premier League side.

The death of Wales manager Gary Speed, who was found hanged at his home, continues to impact on the football world.

Peter Kay, chief executive of the Sporting Chance clinic, revealed: “Ten players have contacted me to seek help since the news broke. That is an unusual amount.”

And the Professional Footballers' Association is to send a booklet on handling depression to all ex-players.

50,000 former professionals will receive the booklet as PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor wants to “let people know there is a support system”.

Susannah Strong, author of the booklet 'The Footballers' Guidebook', told the BBC: “There's a huge amount of stigma and taboo around mental health. It's an extraordinary sport where you get people to the absolute physical perfection - and yet there's no attention paid whatsoever to the mental health of footballers.”

The draw for the third round of the FA Cup is always one of the biggest events in the football calendar and this year it has produced a real cracker.

Top of the bill without a shadow of doubt is the clash between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium.

This means that one of the two top sides in the country will be out of the competition at the first stage. It's got all the ingredients to make a true classic.

City are the holders having knocked 11 time winners United out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage last season.

United are the current Premier League champions although they are currently trailing their Manchester rivals by five points at the top of the table and will no doubt be bursting to avenge that humiliating 6-1 drubbing at Old Trafford in October.

It's bound to be a feisty affair, let's hope a strong referee will be given the whistle.