Derek Davis' Football Chatter

WHAT joy, in these days of fans being hammered by exorbinent ticket prices and stroppy footballers who snub supporters after games, that we have a group who care about the lifeblood of the game - the fans.

WHAT joy, in these days of fans being hammered by exorbinent ticket prices and stroppy footballers who snub supporters after games, that we have a group who care about the lifeblood of the game - the fans.

You will have seen the big-time Charlies, even when they are actually quite average. They the ones that mutter excuses not to talk to the fans via the press and hold their mobiles to their ears as they stride past waiting autograph hunters pretending they have mates urgently needing to speak.

So, thank goodness for the down-to-earth Wigan players who made sure a group of six teenagers got home safely after their coach left Chelsea without them.

When Leighton Baines and Matt Jackson heard about the tearful youngsters being stranded, they organised a whip round and made £400 to pay the train fares back to the north-west.

One of the players' wives even gave the teens a lift to the station.

On the subject of money and players caring, they don't have to be mutually exclusive.

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I'm delighted for David Beckham that he has landed a whopping contract, £50m basic and the potential to earn another £75m, over five years.

You may not believe that the MLS will ever take off in America but at least he is giving it a go and doing something worthwhile with academies all over the place.

Yes, he will love the celebrity Hollywood lifestyle but he deserves it. Beckham has got where he is through sheer hard graft.

He made the most of his average talent by spending hours on the training pitch perfecting free-kicks and crosses. He also moulded his image by putting himself out when it comes to fans, and the media. You won't see him shunning autograph hunters or dismissing requests for an interview even when his team has lost. The man has class and good luck to him.

CHESTER may have benefited from still being in the FA Cup by an administrative error on Bury's behalf but the City chairman Stephen Vaughan has shown some nifty footwork in the past to ensure his team stayed in the competition in 2001.

Vaughan still owned shares in non-league Barrow, where he was once the owner, and was still in possession when they drew Chester, which he had bought. FA rules meant a conflict of interest and Chester were close to being kicked out. But three days before the tie, boxing promoter Vaughan sold his Barrow shares to a 'Mr Brown' and so the game went ahead.

Not long afterwards it turned out that Mr Brown was a painter and decorator working at the Deva Stadium and had sold the shares back to Vaughan, who admitted the sale was merely a 'paper exercise'.

No rules were broken and the FA were quite happy with the whole procedure.

IT will come as no surprise to learn that Premiership fans are simply not turning up for all their team's games any more due to the cost.

A survey of more than 2,000 fans by Virgin Money revealed 41% of supporters - around half season-ticket holders - said they had cut the numbers of games they attended in 2006.

The company's football fans price index shows the cost of going to games has risen by 17% since the start of last year and one in seven supporters questioned said they will go to at least 10 fewer games in 2007. By voting with their feet it can only be hoped that club chairmen, the FA and the leagues sit up and take notice. Fans are fed up of being treated as turnstile fodder and their loyalty being exploited with ever higher prices.”

According to the survey, Chelsea top the Premiership for fans who have cut the number of games they go to followed by Manchester City and Watford.

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