HUSSEIN on the front page, Hussain on the back. Wouldn't it be nice to have a peaceful, ordered life?

In the circumstances, it would be understandable if Nasser were to emulate Spike Milligan by hanging a sign on his door, saying: "Do not disturb, I am disturbed enough already."

The turmoil has unfortunately alarmed his England cricket team, and while it seemed grossly unfair that they should be used as political pawns it is now equally unfair to expect them to play when they feel unsafe.

It has been reported that Foreign Office minutes mentioned an arms cache discovered by Zimbabwean police allegedly for use by Robert Mugabe's opponents against England's cricketers.

No matter what assurances are given about security, once words like arms cache are thrown into the equation then no sportsman is likely to venture into the middle of an arena without feeling jittery.

Safety is paramount. Alongside that scoring minor political points against the Mugabe regime seems irrelevant.

The England players are in an impossible situation. The International Cricket Council want them to go ahead with the match in Harare, but how can they possibly give of their best under the dual handicap of fatigue and fear?

Several key players are already the victims of a ridiculous itinerary which has sent them straight to southern Africa after four gruelling months in Australia.

But if they decline to play their opening match in Zimbabwe their World Cup challenge will be virtually over before it has begun because they are in such a tough group.

Non cricket lovers, believing the team to be hopeless, might ask "so what?" But they don't deserve that because given better luck with injures than they have enjoyed recently they have only Australia to fear.

They have made their feelings known, but given the strong Asian influence within the ICC it was never likely that England alone would be granted dispensation from playing in Zimbabwe.

Fears of a split within the ICC are already too strong for that - yet another illustration of what a fractious world we live in.

THERE was no fear in Sunderland's play when they went to Blackburn in the FA Cup and knocked in three goals.

It didn't really matter if they were knocked out because the Premiership is god and the financial cost of relegation makes the Stock Market losses look like a drop in the ocean.

So when it was back to the survival fight four days later the fear resurfaced and the trapdoor opened a little wider.

Fans will ask how the soaraway Magpies can offer £9m for Jonathan Woodgate but the miserable Mackems can't afford to support their controversial appointment of Howard Wilkinson with any new signings.

But they had already splashed out to no avail before his arrival, and other clubs have been down this route at huge cost from which they struggle to recover.

Footballers might be vastly over-paid, but that doesn't make them play without fear when relegation looms and it is not fair to the fans that they should labour under this burden. The first step towards reducing it should be to go back to two up, two down, as West Brom are predictably proving.

BISHOP Auckland cyclist Stuart Wearmouth must be due a change of luck when he is one of four Britons competing in the World Cyclo Cross Championships in Italy this weekend.

Two weeks ago he went head first over his handlebars when his mudguard caught in his spokes while cycling to work, then last Sunday his seat pin snapped in a cyclo-cross event at Mowden Park, Darlington.

He had to cover the last lap and a half without a saddle, forcing him to settle for second place. The man who finished third was relegated to ninth for leaving the muddy course to ride on the road. Beats me how he thought he could get away with it.

HOW long will Gazza last in China? I'll give him two months, although you have to admire his tenacity in trawling the globe to find a club. His timing was good too because they're just celebrating their new year.

Apparently the kebabs are not bad, so perhaps he'll knuckle down and become as big a star in the East as Lian-Wei Zhang, who became the first Chinaman to win on the European golf tour when he pipped Ernie Els in Singapore on Sunday.

It has since been reported that Zhang paid the local caddy assigned to him only 0.5 per cent of his winnings, instead of the usual four per cent.

Zhang's purse was £90,000, so the caddy got about £450, which doesn't sound bad for around 18 hours' work.

But it is being said that the miserly Chinaman will find it difficult to get a caddy when he returns to the Tour. Unless Gazza volunteers, of course.

Published: 31/01/2003