by MONITOR
THERE are almost always knife-edge decisions to be settled on the final weekend of the English league football season but few can have produced as many dramas as the one just past. A victory for Arsenal in the last game ever to be played at the historic Highbury stadium was a requirement and Thierry Henry ensured that it was delivered, even adding a personal hat-trick of goals as icing on the celebratory cake. Meanwhile, across London, Tottenham Hotspur needed to beat West Ham in order to deny Arsenal a guaranteed Champions' League place next season, regardless of the outcome of their final encounter with Barcelona. That Spurs gallantly failed to do so mainly because several of their players were suffering from food poisoning added to the drama of the Premiership's last day. The most remarkable event, however, was surely at Fulham's Craven Cottage ground where Middlesbrough, facing a Uefa cup final tomorrow, fielded a team made up almost entirely of graduates from its youth academy. Fulham's victory by a single goal came from a penalty and the Boro youngsters acquitted themselves well. There is a further point: 15 of the 16 in the squad were born within 30 miles of Middlesbrough's stadium. The youth policy supported by the Boro's chairman, Steve Gibson, is probably the most forward-looking in English football and Gibson and his manager Steve McLaren deserve praise for their commitment to it. The contrast between Middlesbrough's long-term policy and most other Premiership clubs is striking and shows that the talent is to be found in England if enough resources are put into spotting and developing it.