LuaLua misses no day’s prayer

For there is far more to the man than acrobatic back-flips and spectacular goals.

Yet he’s no Bible-basher preaching to the unconverted.

He simply appreciates how fortunate he is and wants to make a difference to those less fortunate.

In the past 18 months even LuaLua’s faith must have been tested. A bout of malaria left him so ill he felt destined for an appointment with his Maker.

That paled into insignificance last January following the death of his two-year-old son Jesus, who died of pneumonia.

LuaLua was on African Nations duty with his national side Democratic Republic of Congo at the time and, fearing his form would disintegrate, they kept the news from him.

“That was unforgivable but typical of the selfish way some people live,” he said. “How could they keep that from me? I had to watch my own son’s funeral on video and the pain of his death is excruciating, it’s been very hard to come to terms with.

“My last memory is speaking to him shortly before he became ill. He was having a bath and like any happy two-year-old he was mumbling away.”

Managers falling too fast

English Premiership managers’ union chief John Barnwell has slammed “unrealistic” league clubs amid the current spate of sackings.

Millwall’s Nigel Spackman became the sixth managerial casualty of the season last week.

Less than two months into the new campaign, Spackman has joined the likes of Bryan Robson and Kevin Blackwell in being shown the exit door.

League Managers’ Association chief executive Barnwell said: “It’s proven that continuity and stability usually bring success. We see it now at the start of almost every season when clubs panic if they have a slow start. It will be Millwall’s fifth manager in 15 months and that’s a frightening figure.

“There’s now more and more pressure on managers to succeed. But these clubs are unrealistic if they think chopping and changing managers will improve results as it doesn’t work.”

It never rains for Becks . . .

David Beckham has suffered another humiliating blow from new England boss Steve McClaren.

McClaren did not just ignore the Real Madrid star in his Euro 2008 squad to face Macedonia and Croatia ‘ and that despite injuries to midfielders Owen Hargreaves, Joe Cole and Aaron Lennon.

He also revealed that Beckham, the one-time golden boy of the English game and sporting icon to a generation, was now fifth choice at best for his once guaranteed berth on the right side of midfield.

The former skipper is now way down the pecking order, behind Steven Gerrard, Lennon, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Pennant.

That surely confirms Beckham’s international career is definitely over and his dream of amassing 100 caps for his country will never be realised.

McClaren said: “I made my intentions clear from the beginning. I said when I named the first squad that I was looking to the future.

I also said all along that the door’s not closed to David and it’s still not closed.

He’s somebody we’ve kept an eye on and considered, but when I look at that right-hand side, Steven Gerrard has done a very good job.”

Crouch ‘ the special one

There’s no doubt about it now ‘ Peter Crouch is a special player.

He has generated debates all over the country about whether he is a Premiership player, never mind an international one.

He has given the perfect answer, the best response any striker can give ‘ goals.

In terms of goals-per-game, there is doubt if there’s a more prolific marksman in Europe.

And credit to both Rafael Benitez at Liverpool and Steve McClaren with England for backing their judgment and including Crouch in their plans for club and for country.

He has proved a lot of people wrong ‘ especially those fans who booed and jeered when he came on for England against Hungary at Old Trafford last season in the build-up to the World Cup finals.

The treatment he was given by a section of the crowd was disgraceful ‘ that’s the only word for it.

But he came through that test and showed that ‘ along with all his other attributes ‘ he has resilience. Resilience and character.

No matter what hurdle has been put in front of him during his career, he has climbed it successfully.

October 2006
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