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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 August, 2003, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Funny old game

Betting - it's kid's stuff

Like most children, Chris Kirkland no doubt cost his family a small fortune in toys, clothes and food when he was growing up.

The Kirkland family could have plenty to celebrate on Thursday
The Kirkland family could have plenty to celebrate on Thursday
But the 22-year-old Liverpool goalkeeper looks set to repay his debts in style.

Eleven years ago, Chris' dad Eddie - plus a group of friends - all put 100 on the-then schoolboy one day playing for England.

William Hill were unconvinced and gave Eddie odds of 100/1 - but it looks as though, for once, the father's optimism was justified.

Kirkland's surprise call-up to the England squad for Wednesday's friendly with Croatia means he has every chance of making his full England debut.

He only has to play for a minute as a substitute to qualify and net the elder Kirkland and his pals 10,000 each.

"I really hope I play and fulfill his faith in me - that would be great for both of us and I'm sure he would be celebrating madly," said Chris.

Eddie confirmed he had kept his betting slip safe for the past 11 years, and is hopeful of swapping the slightly faded, creased sheet of paper for 10,000 on Thursday morning.

Picture imperfect

Highly-respected among her peers, Romanian photographer Gabriela Arsenie won an award for taking the best sports photograph of 1999.

Players must step on to pitch with right foot
Players must stuff grass from pitch into breast pocket
Team bus cannot reverse while players are aboard
Basil inserted into players' boots on night before matches
Not that such talent impressed the Romanian FA as they prepared for Wednesday's friendly against Ukraine in Donetsk.

Arsenie found herself barred from the team's plane, because the superstitious team consider her presence to be bad luck.

"No woman (has) travelled with the national team's plane so far, and that's why we did not allow the photographer to come with us," a Romanian FA official was quoted as saying in a Romanian newspaper for whom Arsenie works.

Superstitions are commonplace among Romanian players.

Coach Anghel Iordanescu often visits churches before matches, and carries religious artefacts during games, while players are banned from whistling on the team bus.

Not that the routine has brought a tremendous amount of good fortune to the team of late. Romania have lost five of their last eight matches.

Neigh thrice neigh

The annual Pantomime Horse Challenge at Sandown Park
Snowy's going to win - Oh no he isn't
Regrets - we have all had a few, including Snowy the pantomime horse.

The fake filly is still rueing a missed opportunity after losing out to Neigh Chance in the Pantomime Horse Challenge last week.

Snowy was the local favourite in this hotly contested sprint over 100 metres at Sandown Park.

But, despite a close finish, the plucky contender was unable to stop Neigh Chance continue his 'rein' for a third successive year.

The race was also the subject of some controversy this year when one of the competitors was revealed to be an elephant.

There has been no stewards' inquiry.

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