Tall tale of Crouch's disease

Mary Hannigan's Planet Football: Playing a big lad up front, in the form of Peter Crouch (6ft 7in) has paid off quite handsomely…

Mary Hannigan's Planet Football: Playing a big lad up front, in the form of Peter Crouch (6ft 7in) has paid off quite handsomely for Southampton this season.

Even though the team are still struggling he, at least, has managed 13 goals. So, when the club's radio station revealed recently that Crouch is suffering from a rare disease known as Proofilla it seemed like they were about to have an even bigger lad up front, one unlikely to lose an aerial battle for the rest of his career.

Proofilla, you see, results in an adult continuing to grow - Crouch was diagnosed when it was discovered his tracksuit bottoms were too short for him. When they measured him they found he had grown three inches since the start of the season. Doctors, the club reported, were predicting that Crouch would grow to seven feet, three inches over the next couple of years, leaving Harry Redknapp rubbing his hands in glee. Amazing story. We were stunned. Until we realised the disease in question is an anagram of . . . April Fool. Harry? Gutted.

Only fools and footballers


Speaking of April Fools . . . was Fulham player liaison officer Mark Maunders winding us up in his interview with FourFourTwo magazine? Or are professional footballers even more helpless than we first feared? Over to you Mark: "Alain Goma once rang me sounding very troubled. 'Mark, Mark, I've got a big problem, can you come and help me?' So I rushed straight over to see him, and there he was, pointing at a fish bowl. 'You've got to help me,' he says, 'it's my goldfish - they're swimming in the wrong direction'. I told him I was too busy taking Maik Taylor's terrapin for a walk to solve his problem."

Case number two. Maunders was urgently summoned by Fabrice Fernandes, the French midfielder, who reported that he woke every morning with a wet head. Maunders' investigations revealed the player was, eh, sleeping by a window he left open even when it was raining.

Case number three: Maunders had to collect Latvian Andrejs Stolcers from London Underground's lost property department. "His bag was gone and he'd lost his passport, wallet and keys. I had to collect him, take him home, give him some cash, cancel his cards and change all the locks on all his doors. He was helpless." Yep, helpless is the only word for it.

Quotes of the week

"I have never met Lee Bowyer but everyone I have spoken to about him says that he is a toe-rag."

- Tony Cascarino, slandering toe-rags the world over by comparing them to Bowyer.

"Given the chance to play for Ireland I would have walked there. But it's not possible."

- As Football 365 put it, "Franck Queudrue spots the Irish Sea".

"My lot are the ugliest team ever to have worn the blue and white hoops - we certainly don't sell many calendars. In my playing days we had some right good looking b*****s. But this lot are the worst I have ever seen. They all look like dogs."

- QPR manager Ian Holloway - his players are probably entitled to reply: "you're no Brad Pitt yerself".

"We have a code of conduct (and fines) for everything - coming too late or pi**ing during training. It's not a joke. You have to have proper discipline."

- Spurs coach Martin Jol revealing that when his players take a wee during training they end up spending more than a penny.

"You wonder whether he would want to come and play for us - and there would be an obvious problem with his wages and transfer fee."

- Bolton's Sam Allardyce looking forward to signing Michael Owen in the summer, once he can iron out one or two obstacles to the deal.

Jose's week

"Truth is like olive oil, but the reality is that it sometimes appears too late . . . I don't want to say anything except that oil always surfaces."

- Only Jose Mourinho, surely, could bring olive oil in to his dispute with UEFA.

"There are so many coaches in this world who want to work but can't and there are those dashing blades who, through their quality and prestige, could work but don't want to, because life as a parasite fulfils them professionally and economically. Get to work you idle scoundrel! And if you don't want to, let others work in peace."

- Jose says a big hello to telly pundits Gordon Strachan, Alan Hansen and co.

"In Europe there is a boy daring to think high. He was ambitious, wanting to be informed, courageous in his entry into a world dominated by people united by links and conservative principles. It was domineering like an iceberg in which the mass of what we see at the surface makes us think there is nothing below it."

- Who's Jose talking about? More clues in the next quote.

"The kid arrived, said he wanted to win and won. He said he was one of the best and he proved it. He said he did not want to be an integral part of the plan and remained independent. He said the sharks around him did not frighten him and he swam between them."

- Yep, as you suspected, Jose's talking about Jose.

"The moral of the story is not to listen to those who tell you not to play the violin but stick to the tambourine."

- Now he's completely lost us.

Neal down in embarrassment

On the very slim off chance that you missed Phil Neal's mind-boggling response to the Observer's Jamie Jackson's request for his memories and views of the night of the Heysel disaster, when he was Liverpool captain, here goes: ". . Jamie, why should I help you out? I'm helping you pay your mortgage (by talking to you about Heysel). When people ask me for my view, they usually have to pay for it. You're asking for my help for nothing ... If I talk to you for a few minutes, then I'm helping you pay your mortgage and what am I getting in return? Do you know what I mean?

"Jamie I'm helping you pay your mortgage. People who want my views pay ... So you've spoken to people, you've got your views. You've got your Liverpool view, but if you want mine for free, well people pay for them."

Oh Lordy.

Ranieri's compo

There we were fretting over what our beloved Claudio Ranieri was doing with himself these days, and worrying if he had enough money to put food on the table. But then we read that to add to the £6 million he got from Chelsea when he was sacked he's now looking for £5.5 million from Valencia as compensation for being ditched eight months into a three-year deal. "He wasn't sacked on a whim, there were reasons to justify our action," said the club, "if he didn't do his job properly then we are within our rights to rescind his contract."

The two parties have so far failed to agree on a figure so the dispute is likely to end up in court. £11.5 million? The most lucrative pair of P45s in history? At least he's not going hungry. Good man, Claudio.