Football Diary
by Patrick O’Connor

WATCHING Liverpool’s Europa League win over Steaua Bucharest on television on Thursday night, it was sad to see gaping holes in the crowd.  Anfield, one of the most famous stadiums in the world, has a capacity of over 45,000, but was only just over half full.

The history of one of England’s premier clubs is littered with famous European nights when packed houses have witnessed epic performances.  The performance was there sure enough, with Liverpool romping home 4-1 but why did so many fans stay away?  Is it because Liverpool are undergoing a period of adjustment under new boss Roy Hodgson, is it because of ticket prices or are fans getting bored of European football?

Maybe they were more interested in last Sunday’s clash against fierce rivals Manchester United in the Premier League.

At least one football club put things into perspective at the weekend when West Ham announced that manager Avram Grant would miss the game at Stoke to observe Yom Kippur.  The Day of Atonement is a key date in the Jewish calendar and requires Jews to fast and pray over the course of Friday night  and Saturday.

“West Ham fully respect and understand the situation,” said the Hammers in a statement. “It’s very unusual for the day to clash with the fixture list.”

The Hammers were also without Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim but that didn’t stop them picking up their first point of the season with a 1-1 draw. Maybe the manager should stay away more often!

Next time your team offers up a dismal performance, it might be worth checking that they haven’t sent out a side of imposters!

One of football’s most intriguing stories came to light last week when it emerged that football authorities in Togo were  investigating allegations that a fake national team played a match against Bahrain.  Bahrain won the friendly match 3-0, but said they were surprised by the poor quality of the Togolese team.  Togo later said it had never sent its national team to play in the game, staged at the national stadium in Riffa so who on earth turned up?

Togo’s Sport Minister Christophe Tchao told the Jeune Afrique magazine nobody in Togo had “ever been informed of such a game”.  “We will conduct investigations to uncover all those involved in this case,” he said.

It always provides a chuckle to hear of unusual reasons why players have to miss a match because of injury.

Colchester United defender Lee Beevers is out for four weeks after injuring his hand in a pram!  He suffered a dislocated metacarpal after tripping down stairs while carrying his child’s pushchair.   Boss John Ward told BBC Essex:  “He tripped on the stairs carrying a pram, if you want the story. He bent his hand underneath. He’s been training OK, in fact he’s been more of a danger to other people because he has a plaster on it.

Quote of the week came from Blackpool manager Ian Holloway who told the Independent newspaper ahead of his side’s trip to Chelsea: “I believe you have to try and hit a champion; try to knock him out. Even Henry Cooper did that the Muhammad Ali and that shocked the world, didn’t it? So why can’t Blackpool score a goal against Chelsea?”

Blackpool didn’t score a goal, they lost the game 4-0 but it could easily have been 14-0, it was so one-sided. The gulf between the haves and the have-nots is getting bigger and bigger and bigger….