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Taking the Mick

Published: Friday 9 November 2007, 8.01CET
Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall made his England debut this week alongside fellow hit machines Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle and Off the Ball also has tales from the world of politics, road safety and go-karting.
by Paul Saffer
Published: Friday 9 November 2007, 8.01CET

Taking the Mick

Simply Red frontman Mick Hucknall made his England debut this week alongside fellow hit machines Paul Gascoigne and Chris Waddle and Off the Ball also has tales from the world of politics, road safety and go-karting.

The music-football interface is a seam we are very keen to mine, indeed it is a most renewable resource. So consider this list of players plucked from a side that represented England in this week's legends match against Italy in Malta: Paul Gascoigne, Chris Waddle, Peter Bonetti and Mick Hucknall.

Yes, both Gascoigne and Waddle did indeed have chart hits, duetting with Lindisfarne and Glenn Hoddle respectively, and even Bonetti sang on England's 1970 FIFA World Cup song Back Home. But all were of course internationals, able to hold their own with the likes of Salvatore Schillaci and Dino Baggio. On the other hand, Hucknall may have named his band Simply Red partly in tribute to Manchester United FC, but his footballing career was mainly spent as a flair player at fictional Viz comic strip team Fulchester United FC (starring semi-aquatic goalkeeper Billy 'the Fish' Thompson). Hucknall was a late substitute in the 5-1 Italian victory but the match was in fact part of the Malta Music Festival, with Simply Red playing the following day. Though without covering Fog on the Tyne and allowing Gazza to reprise his memorable rap from the 1990 version.

Quick on the draw
The eagle eyed among you will have noticed that two different versions of the Scottish League Cup semi-final draw were announced last week. And it was all the found of Alex Fergusson (note the spelling). The Scottish Football League held the draw at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, but government rules meant that control had to be handed over to the chamber's presiding office, Mr Fergusson. However, as Scottish first minister Alex Salmond picked the balls, Fergusson read out the wrong names, meaning that Aberdeen FC rather than Heart of Midlothian FC faced a tie with Rangers FC before a corrected draw was issued some hours later. "This was a genuine error and I can only apologise for the confusion caused," said Fergusson. "As a lifelong Stranraer [FC] fan, I think everyone can be assured that there was no ulterior motive."

Go team
Who feels the need for speed? Roy Keane, that's who. The Irishman has had his Sunderland AFC players working hard this season to stay above the Premier League relegation zone, and the manager rewarded them before their encounter with Manchester City FC by sending them go-karting. Keane said: "It's good competition. There's a few quid involved and I know they were desperate to win with there being money on the table!" Funnily enough, reminiscing on a similar vein was Portsmouth FC goalkeeper David James. "Ahead of [UEFA] EURO 2004™ we went go-karting with England," he wrote in the Observer. "It was only supposed to be a PR do for the media, but try telling that to a bunch of fiercely competitive sportsmen. On the final bend I was ahead, then Wazza [Wayne Rooney] hit the back of me and I came third. There's no such thing as friendly karting among footballers."

Bus stop
Sadly, insurance isssues have dashed one of James's ambitions. "My ultimate request would be to have a go at the demolition derby. I used to dream about it as a kid. I guess I'll be waiting for my retirement days before that dream comes true." But all he really needs to do is sign for Werder Bremen. The team were leaving the AufSchalke Arena after their 1-1 Bundesliga draw at FC Schalke 04 when their team bus, in the safe hands of Horst Kück, was in collision with a car driven by a home fan known as Edith T. Any damage was only minor, but Kück said: "I have been driving for Bremen for ten years now, but have never experienced anything like that." Captain Frank Baumann turned shop steward, declaring: "This is final proof that our team bus is too small. The other driver simply couldn't see it."

Last updated: 12/11/07 10.09CET

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