Time running out for Manuel Almunia's England ambitions

• Capello rules out England future for Spaniard• Keeper may not have had time to get passportFabio Capello might have dressed it up as backing his own players, but the national team's manager did have a much more practical reason for ruling out Manuel Almunia's selection for England. Only if Arsenal went crashing out of the Champions League over the next fortnight would the Spanish goalkeeper have had sufficient time to process his citizenship application and be available for selection at the next World Cup. According to information on the Home Office website: "You should think very carefully before applying if you require your passport within the next three months."Although the Home Office tries to decide 95% of all applications within six months, and processes some in a shorter timeframe, there would be no special treatment for Almunia, whatever Capello's stance had been. A spokesman for the Home Office said: "He would need to surrender his passport. There is no fast-track procedure."If Arsenal qualify for the Champions League group stages then Almunia will be required to travel overseas at least once in September, in October or early November, and then later that month or in early December. If, as in every year since 2000, Arsenal reach the knockout phase, there will be only nine weeks before he will need his passport again.Any extended run in the competition – Arsenal have played one final, two semi-finals and three quarter-finals in the past four years – would mean that it would be at least April before Almunia could hand over his passport."If I take the decision I don't think it's difficult to get citizenship. It could be very quick – and soon," Almunia said. But not quite soon enough.Straumur can't asset strip West HamPresumably if West Ham United do sell Matthew Upson to Manchester City for £15m, then every penny will be diverted to team strengthening because the chief executive, Scott Duxbury, constantly reassures fans his club is being run on a break-even basis. Indeed its Icelandic owner, Straumur, cannot begin asset stripping – as many fans fear – because the club's own lenders such as Barclays and RBS have first charge over the players and stadium. But Straumur is trying to stave off liquidation and we may never know for sure how 2009 transfer receipts have been used. However, Digger gets the feeling those sales are necessary just to pay the Hammers' wages and their multimillion-pound fines.Stonewall out of syncHomophobia, possibly football's last redoubt for the unreconstructed, is a subject that clearly requires much more attention. The equality campaign Stonewall has taken on the task, commissioning Yougov (at presumably not inconsiderable expense) to conduct important fan research on the matter. But, after having to abort Monday's intended release of the research due to the final sign-off of statistics, today's timing beggars belief. Stonewall might not think it has many friends in football but surely it could have asked someone if coinciding its launch with an England game was a good idea?Jobs for the unemployedESPN has selected its punditry line-up to join the anchorman, Ray Stubbs, for the first match weekend of the season. With Peter Reid and Ian Wright in the studio for Everton's hosting of Arsenal on Saturday we can expect some humorously partisan repartee ("That's easy for you to say," quips Reid). Joe Royle will be Jon Champion's co-commentator for the match. Stubbs also hosts Dundee United-Hearts on Monday night, alongside Colin Hendrie and Terry Butcher, while Craig Burley will co-commentate with Derek Rae. But ESPN's punditry line-ups are not fixed throughout the season, so underemployed former footballers who happen to be reading (you know who you are) can apply here.Weber pleads ignoranceWilli Weber, Michael Schumacher's long-term manager, took plenty of stick for having said he was "200% sure" his client would not race at Valencia less than 24 hours before his participation in the race was announced. But, far from revel in his own prescience when Schumacher was forced to withdraw yesterday, Weber blithely confessed to ignorance about the driver's injuries. "At the time I said it, I didn't know he couldn't race because of his neck – it was about [Schumacher not being familiar with] the tyres, the car or the racetrack," said Weber. "But then we liked the [racing] idea so much it was only when the doctor said it was too dangerous that we stopped. At the end of the day, it's just shit."EnglandFabio CapelloWest Ham UnitedESPNMichael SchumacherFormula OneMotor sportMatt Scottguardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
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