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• Tottenham Hotspur, three-times winners of the League Cup, suffered a humiliating 1-0 defeat by League Two leaders Grimsby Town in the competition’s second round on Tuesday night. Democratic Republic of Congo striker Jean-Paul Kamudimba Kalala was Grimsby’s hero in the 89th minute, latching on to a poor clearance from a corner to lash the ball into the net from just outside the area.
While Russell Slade’s side thoroughly deserved their moment in the Carling Cup spotlight, Tottenham manager Martin Jol could hardly be accused of failing to pay the Mariners the respect they deserved. Jol named a strong line-up containing five England players and 10 internationals in total. But Grimsby, who top their division after successive relegations in the past two seasons, simply refused to give up and Kalala’s late strike was just reward for their efforts.
Portsmouth were the only other Premiership casualties, losing 3-2 to lowly League One outfit Gillingham after extra time. Aston Villa came from 3-1 down at half-time to beat League Two’s Wycombe Wanderers 8-3.
Other Premier League clubs to advance included Charlton Athletic, West Ham United, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion and Sunderland, who scraped through 1-0 against League Two side Cheltenham after extra time. The eight Premier League clubs in European competition join the Cup in the third round next month.
• It is a sign of how rapidly eras can end that not one Oval employee has won selection for England’s Test or one-day squads in Pakistan and that Surrey, dominant for a decade, will be relegated unless they win Wednesday’s final Championship fixture under those glowering gasholders.
Even that might not be sufficient: their visitors, Middlesex, need only eight points to ensure their own safety. Vinny Codrington, their chief executive, is not alone in fearing that Bill Gordon’s pitch, so unimpeachable for the final Test, may be prepared to favour spin, the one suit in which Surrey hold the aces.
Two years ago, when England pulled off the improbable win over South Africa at The Oval that kick-started the run of form that culminated in last week’s Ashes celebrations, the XI, fittingly, numbered no fewer than four men of Surrey: Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, Mark Butcher and Martin Bicknell. The luckless Butcher, bedevilled by injury, is now captain largely in absentia; Stewart wears a suit for work, Thorpe – left out of the Middlesex game – is heading for a coaching job in Australia, Bicknell for one at Charterhouse school, Godalming.
While injuries to seamers have greatly denuded both clubs, the similarities stop there. Under coach John Emburey, Middlesex are runners-up in the National League and, but for rain, would have beaten champions Nottinghamshire last month and challenged for the title. Ed Joyce, Owais Shah and Jamie Dalrymple are in the latest National Academy intake. Unfortunately, as Codrington notes, the most competitive Championship for decades has coincided with the belated final season of three-up, three-down.
Middlesex are a youngish squad maturing together, their neighbours an ageing empire decaying apart. When Surrey recently parted company with their manager, Steve Rixon, the decision could not have been more mutual, the straight-
talking Australian bemoaning an aversion to youth and, worse, a lack of professionalism. Ball-tampering may well be the most exaggerated of sporting crimes but seeing his side caught in the act, as Rixon did against Nottinghamshire, cost more than the ensuing eight-point penalty that will probably ensure demotion.
Warwickshire will have Ian Bell available for their meeting with relegated Gloucestershire at Edgbaston. The 23-year-old England batsman was ordered to rest after the Ashes success but returned to action on Tuesday in the Totesport League match against Yorkshire, smashing 137 in a 102-run victory.
Lancashire will be without injured Dominic Cork as they look to clinch the Championship Division Two title against Leicestershire at Old Trafford.
• A football finance expert insists a downturn in Barclays Premiership attendances is not indicative of an overall crisis in the English top flight. Swathes of empty seats have been in evidence across the country in the opening weeks of the season with high ticket prices and negative tactics blamed for the decline. However, Paul Rawnsley of Deloitte and Touche, the accountancy firm, believes the financial strength and stability of the English game in comparison with some of its European competitors suggests there is no cause for panic. “Clubs should be conscious of the issue but it’s not a crisis,” he said.
• The chairman of the sports honours’ committee is encouraging members of the public to nominate individuals they want to see rewarded in future new year and birthday honours lists. Lord MacLaurin, the former Tesco chairman, says the present list is “far too narrow. I would like to spread opportunities more widely”.
Members of the public must obtain necessary forms from the Cabinet Office, 35 Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BQ and secure as much support as they can for the individuals they want to nominate. These nominations are eventually passed on to the committee – which includes such luminaries as Sir Matthew Pinsent, Sir Bobby Robson and Dame Tanni Grey Thompson – for discussion.