Early Doors

“Sympathize with Gazza”

Early Doors

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Elano might have been a peripheral figure as Manchester City crashed out of the FA Cup at Sheffield United, but he still managed to get an assist.

For those now-infamous balloons in the goalmouth bore the midfielder's likeness and the slogan 'It's just like watching Brazil'.

City lost 2-1 with Luton Shelton scoring the opener after the ball ricocheted off one such inflatable obstruction.

It was just about the only sighting of the off-colour Elano at Bramall Lane, and he was carted off at half-time - possibly as a punishment for inspiring the barrage of balloons.

In one way they did their job. As Michael Ball swung haplessly at a deflected cross, allowing Shelton to bundle the ball home, it was like watching Brazil.

Unfortunately for Ball it was the defending of 2002 World Cup-winner and erstwhile Leeds 'ace' Roque Junior.

Early Doors' readers can breathe a sigh of relief that the balloons were not thrown by Blades fans, prompting a tortured analogy between City's Cup exit and the chilling vision of nuclear holocaust foretold in Nena's 80s smash hit '99 Red Balloons'.

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Cheryl Cole might be standing by her man, but has started to get her own back by accusing Ashley of suffering from Brewer's Droop.

Opening her heart to the News of the World, Cheryl slammed Hairdresser Aimeee's claims that Ashley had, er, 'bedded' her with a curt putdown.

"That's utter rubbish, I know that for a FACT. I know Ashley intimately. When he's under the influence he ISN'T capable," she stormed.

The comment must have had Pfizer's marketing executive rubbing their hands with glee, with the pharmaceutical giant lining Ashley up as a future Viagra spokesman.

Any footballer would normally be delighted to follow in Pele's footsteps, but in this case perhaps not so much.

(For anyone whose knowledge of football comes entirely from Early Doors; Pele is actually famous for more than waging a one-man war against erectile disfunction. He used to be the best player in the world.)

Why Cheryl would stay with Ashley is anyone's guess, given she is both successful and, as the kids might say, "well fit".

Most WAGs' talent stretches no further than collecting Fendi handbags and massive "so sorry I had it off with that PR girl" presents.

Many footballers have paid handsomely for their indiscretions, although Kobe Bryant set the yardstick impressively high after he was cleared of rape charges - but admitted he had been unfaithful to his wife Vanessa.

The NBA star spent a whopping $4.3 million on a purple diamond ring to apologise - although it must be said that amounts to just two months' pay on his current salary.

But Cheryl's track record suggests she should be wearing the trousers, not just collecting tacky diamond-encrusted trinkets.

Girls Aloud have notched up four platinum albums and a record 17 consecutive top ten singles - Ashley isn't even better than Wayne Bridge any more.

Having been banned from Chelsea's Friday press conference, the Sun pressed ahead with more sordid claims this morning - expect Early Doors to indulge its passion for glossy gossip-magazine tittle-tattle throughout this week and beyond.

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It was another weekend of fun and games at the African Cup of Nations, with match-fixing allegations flying around like balloons in a six-yard box.

On the pitch, Early Doors was rather taken by Mohamed Aboutrika's goal celebration after scoring against Sudan.

The Egypt playmaker revealed a t-shirt stating: "Sympathize with Gaza". Referee Koffi Codja promptly booked him - suggesting he does not - and Aboutrika was later warned for his politically-motivated actions.

But sources close to Early Doors suggest the whole farrago was caused by a simple spelling mistake.

Aboutrika meant to pay tribute to a troubled ex-pro by declaring "Sympathize with Gazza".

One can only imagine the uproar if he had used Paul Gascoigne's recent self-appointed nickname and the t-shirt had read "Sympathize with G8".

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SIGN OF THE IMPENDING APOCALYPSE OF THE DAY: When Early Doors was a greasy teen working in McDonald's, the only thing you got for excellence was a plastic star and the occasional Filet-o-fish on the house. Now they can hand out qualifications equivalent to GCSE's and A-levels. Talk about missing your calling.

CELEBRITY FAN OF THE DAY: US presidential hope Barack Obama supports West Ham. Which means, if inaccurate stereotype is anything to go by, he must be concealing tattoos of Bobby Moore and a flag of St George somewhere about his person.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Towards the end of the game, when we were down at a corner in front of the Kop, I was standing next to Steven Gerrard and singing along with them. He looked at me like I was a weirdo. I don't suppose he gets that in the Premier League." Havant & Waterlooville midfielder Jamie Collins on belting out 'You'll Never Walk Alone' mid-FA Cup tie.

FOREIGN VIEW: "They have thrown La Liga away" - El Mundo Deportivo's sullen verdict on Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao. The nine-point gap behind Real Madrid suggests they have done just that.

COMING UP: The African Cup of Nations group stage enters its final round with Ghana taking on Morocco and Guinea playing Namibia. We have live text commentary on both games at 5pm.

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