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Bitter Rivals Go Head-to-Head in January Window

Bitter footballing rivals Hinton Martell Academicals and Hinton Parva Athletic became locked in a bitter struggle yesterday over the signing of want-away Hinton St Mary Rover's much-coveted half-time caterer Alex "The Wizard" Sandwich. Sandwich's contract with the Rover's is due to expire in four year's time with the club anxious to secure a longer-term extension.

However, the unsettled "Wizard of the Wonderbread", whose artistry has kept the Rover's crowd coming to the Dorset-Casino Stadium since 2012 has long been a target for the Academicals who identified him last summer as a replacement for ageing volunteer sisters Vera and Elsie Catering. Sandwich was expected to make the switch last summer in a £5 plus petrol coupons deal which would have made him the most-rewarded sandwich maker in Dorset 3rd Division history. However, the deal fell through when the Rovers failed to secure a last-minute replacement. Now the Academicals look set to miss out again, after refusing to improve their latest offer which they described as "a bit over the top in the first place ... I mean he's good - especially with a tub of Summer County and a cheese ready-slice - but he is 74 and some way off is peak".

Old adversaries Ron So-So Smiley and Bert Scowl were tight-lipped yesterday as it appeared the Academicals were about to be trumped by late-comers Hinton Parva Athletic whose "unbelievable" offer (unbelieved to include mayonnaise as well as ketchup) is likely to wrest the veteran caterer from the Academical's grasp and secure Sandwich's services for the Athletic in a sensational late turn-about. (Dorset Casino odds today: Sandwich to Athletic 30/1; Sandwich to Academicals 3/5 on.)

Rover's manager Arnold Winger had refused to sanction a move for Sandwich until last week when it is believed he had a change of heart. "It is true Alex is a little unsettled; he hasn't shown any interest in a contract extension despite the fact we were prepared to switch from squeezy yellow to whole-grain mustard and it looks like we may be facing life without him. But that's football and we will move on: we are already exploring options". Asked if he might even look abroad, Winger was cagey: "We will see but I don't see croissants as a viable half-time option. Whilst they are deliciously buttery, I don't think they have the substance or consistency for life at the sharp end of the 3rd Division".

STOP PRESS: Sandwich has been "rested" for tonight's fixture against Wootton Warriors fuelling speculation that he and controversial super-agent Hovis Warburton are in advanced talks with the Athletic. Hinton St Mary's resident stringer - Aye Spye - even reports unusual catering van movements in the Hinton Parva/Hinton St Mary's area.

Want-away catering "ace" Alex "The Wizard" Sandwich is the subject of rival bids from old adversaries Hinton Martell Academicals and Hinton Parva Athletic. TOP LEFT: Sandwich in his prime (c 1994); TOP RIGHT: The caterer's impact on crowd attendance at Hinton St Martin Rovers is said to have been transformative; BOTTOM: Alex's refurbished van photographed in 2017: will it soon be gracing the grounds of Hinton Parva Athletic?

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