THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday (or Thursday at Easter)
9 April 2009 ~


The FA have asked Arsenal for their "observations" concerning the Fabregas spitting incident after the recent game against Hull. It would be surprising if any Arsenal player or official witnessed anything at all despite Phil Brown's insistence that Catalan saliva was expelled. The obvious Solomon-like solution would be to allow the alleged recipient of the spit, Brian Horton, to expectorate on Cesc's favourite loafers. Behind closed doors, obviously.

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Badge of the week
For a start, this is no way to answer the door. What if you're a nice old lady collecting for Precious Lives or something and you think to yourself: "I'll try the big, isolated house over the stormy river, they don't get many visitors and I'm sure most people collecting for charity don't even bother to call there. They'll actually appreciate a visit." And so you trickle across the rickety bridge and, having tapped warily on the portcullis, are surprised by a giant figure in chainmail brandishing a broadsword in the attack position. This is precisely why this house never receives the new Yellow Pages. The Kobenhavn XI was created to represent Denmark in the Fairs Cup (the forerunner to the UEFA Cup)  in the 1950s. Theirs is a most threatening crest, combining the twin fears of The Unknown ("Why do we never see the guy from the river house?") and Confrontation ("He's coming at me with a blade and he doesn’t even know me – I work in a wool shop for God’s sake, what threat am I?"). There is a thin line between defending your privacy, the Kobenhavn XI, and socially inappropriate behaviour such as is pictured. Take a chill pill. Cameron Carter

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The next time you're looking for somewhere to stay in Cleethorpes, head over to the Sugar Sugar Hotel and request the Play Lounge. You'll be reclining on cushions that have supported a famous backside. Or at least someone claiming to be him, given that his name is misspelt.

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Long Players
The Glorious History Of Football's Full Length Recordings

Best of the Football Themes The Ted Taylor Chorus and Orchestra (EMI, 1972)
This record is remarkable for two reasons. First, its producer must have discovered a tape marked "crowd noise" on a shelf and thought "Job done". The same snatch of swelling fan roar is looped throughout every single song, from start to finish. This has the virtue of helping to drown out the fey vocals and desultory arrangements on haplessly revamped hits such as Blue is the Colour, You'll Never Walk Alone and Good Old Arsenal. Second, Mark Kingston's breathless commentary between songs crams in facts, stats and obeisance in equal measure like some hyper-ventilating propagandist working himself up to a highly erotic moment before the studio clock runs down. "Stoke City – pride of the Potteries! Their brand of football is packing in the fans!" Chelsea were apparently once the object of music hall jokes, but now "It’s happy Shed days down at the Bridge!" There are other dubious but excited claims, such as Leeds Utd being "undoubtedly the most admired team in the country today", and Manchester Utd being "possibly the game’s most loved club!" The ecstasy builds with a frenetic eulogy to Arsenal: "Yes, you can go all the way with the Gunners!" And finally, a reconstructed run through of Geoff Hurst’s final goal in the 1966 World Cup final: "It’s a goal! It’s a goal!" he squeals six years after the fact. "The World Cup comes to England, the home of football!" Then it’s all over and I'm left feeling empty, holding a scratched LP in a tatty sleeve. A cheap thrill, not to be repeated. Ian Plenderleith

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from Josh Widdicombe
"When I used to work in the Manchester branch of a famous high-street bookshop I would often get the opportunity to meet celebrities promoting their wares. None caused the excitement in the staff room that David Beckham did in 2004. Then, while the fans queued I was taken aside by my boss and given a tenner from petty cash with the instruction: 'Beckham wants some Haribo, head to the supermarket and buy as many different bags of sweets as this gets you.' It gets you quite a lot, so much that Beckham struggled to make a dent in the selection (perhaps because someone else had been sent out to get him a McDonald's previously) and we were left to finish what he couldn't handle. I would like to say that he had eccentrically stuck only to one type of sweet or demanded all Revels were tested to make sure they weren't biscuit before he tried them, but sadly the fact he had picked at a few bags of sweets told us little."

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This week in history ~ Division One, April 9, 1983

Results

Watford's win at West Brom meant that leaders Liverpool had to wait a bit longer for their sixth title in eight seasons. It was wrapped up ten days later when the only team who could catch them, Ron Atkinson's Man Utd, lost 2-0 at Everton. Liverpool used only 16 players including Terry McDermott, who played twice before rejoining his previous club Newcastle in September. The scorers in their 3-0 win over Swansea included "supersub" David Fairclough who was playing in his penultimate match for the club. Manager Bob Paisley retired at the end of the season.

Graham Taylor's Watford were runners-up in their first top-flight season. They finished in mid-table for the next four years before relegation in 1987-88. Wingers Nigel Callaghan and John Barnes scored in their win at West Brom together with the club's first overseas signing, Dutch midfielder Jan Lohman. Luther Blissett was the division's top scorer with 27 goals, three ahead of Ian Rush.

Watford were one of only four top-level clubs whose attendances were up on the previous season; 14 drew average crowds of under 20,000. A meeting of club chairmen was called in mid-April to discuss declining public interest – a ban on television coverage was one of the suggested remedies.

Brighton and Swansea were relegated with one match to go after defeats by Man City and Man Utd respectively. But Brighton did at least have their best ever season in the FA Cup, beating Liverpool at Anfield in the fifth round on their way to the final where they lost in a replay to Man Utd. To the tabloids' delight, manager Jimmy Melia wore his "lucky white disco shoes" for the duration of the cup run. They didn't him much good subsequently as he was sacked in October after less than a year in charge.

Birmingham City spent almost the entire season in the bottom three but stayed up thanks to five victories in their last six matches. Manager Ron Saunders had been a title-winner with Villa two years earlier. Man City were top after winning their first three games but went down on the final day by losing 2-1 at home to relegation rivals Luton; substitute Raddy Antic scored the decisive goal four minutes from time.

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WSC Trivia ~ N0 60
In WSC 125 (July 1997) we published an extract from "the ultimate hooligan tome", The Kick Off by Clint Hardaker. The author described how he would look for rucks with his crew, nicknamed "the Spice Girls, because that's the last thing the Old Bill would be expecting". Mostly, though, they stayed at home and played Scrabble: "Like the filth, the so-called newspapers haven't got a clue what we're up to." We thought it was obvious that this was a parody. But after the issue went on sale we received a flurry of calls from people who'd been unable find the book in the shops and were greatly disappointed to discover that it wasn't real. We allowed Guy Ritchie to buy the film rights, though.

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Stickipedia  
A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Rodion Camataru, Charleroi Panini Belgium 90
Rodion Camataru must have seemed quite a catch for modest Charleroi when he arrived in 1989, just two years after winning the Adidas-sponsored Golden Boot as Europe's top scorer. But his feat caused an outcry at the time and was eventually recognised as a fraud. With six games left in the 1986-87 season, Camataru was comfortably ahead in the Romanian goalscoring charts having got 23 for his club Dinamo Bucharest who were set to finish second behind rivals Steaua. Then he went on a remarkable run, scoring 21 in the final six matches of the season, of which Dinamo won only one. It began with hat-tricks in consecutive 3-3 draws against mid-table clubs, followed by two goals in a 3-2 home loss to opponents who won only one other away match. After that, there was four goals in a 5-4 defeat, all six in a 6-2 win then, to round it off, a hat-trick in a 4-3 defeat. Camataru's total of 44 goals put him five ahead of runner-up Toni Polster of Austria Vienna. Polster refused to attend the award ceremony in Monte Carlo in protest at what looked like an obvious fix. In 1990, after the collapse of the Ceausescu dictatorship, the Romanian sports minister confirmed that it had all been arranged. At the behest of the dictator's son Valentin (who was the president of Steaua and prone to arranging other clubs' results) Dinamo had done deals with their opponents, trading defeats for Camataru goal sprees. Polster was given a Golden Boot for 1986-87 two years ago but Camataru was allowed to keep his award. His total of 44 goals is three short of the European record, held by the 1976-77 winner, Dudu Georgescu of... Dinamo Bucharest..

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