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11 December 2009 ~

As Notts County and Portsmouth have discovered, ownership by mysterious benefactors from the Middle East can have its downside. In fact we can confidently predict that "getting the sheikhs in" will not be a favoured option for cash-strapped clubs in 2010. City experts suggest that funding for football next year is likely to come from: two men called Barry and Terry who have patented a foolproof way of winning at blackjack; the Blofeld Corporation, based inside a dormant volcano somewhere in the Pacific, who are set to become the new sponsors of the FA Cup; and Mr Xzyamylk, a multi-limbed visitor from another galaxy who can control time and is thrilled at the prospect of working with Phil Brown.

Badge of the week
It is seldom in sporting heraldry that one comes across a dragon who is so obviously in love with life. Some academics (Google and Wikipedia) identify the central figure as a griffin – a mythical creature, half-dragon, half-wren – but griffins were notoriously grouchy and their body language more closed. There are rampant dragons, dragons striking poses and dragons squaring up to lions, but very rarely do we encounter a dragon bowling down the street with a song on its lips. In fact this one appears to be performing the Charleston. From this image alone we may infer Llanelli is a joyous place. The Llanelli dragon of legend did not come down from its mountain lair to lay waste to whole villages and steal children away. Rather, it moved among the locals asking how their mothers were and putting in a few hours voluntary down the youth club. And it probably gave Latin & Ballroom classes at a reduced rate. We can further assume, from the image top left of the crest, that this dragon had a sensitive side, spending quieter time in his lair teasing out tragical melodies from a harp that caused the townsfolk to stop their work in the fields and listen in mute wonder. Also, going on the image top right, he probably cooked all his own meals. A nice dragon then. A useful dragon to have around. This won't ignite fear in your opponent's heart but it does help to correct the historically perpetuated stereotype of dragon-kind. Cameron Carter

from Mark Tate
"Gary Lineker has said that he won't shave during the 2010 World Cup until England are knocked out. As the first round groups alone will take more than two weeks to complete, there's a good chance that he will be looking like a vagrant for a while before England's customary exit at the quarter-final stage. Unless of course he is afflicted with the same problem as Gary Neville who, despite trying for several years, has only produced bumfluff that a 15-year-old schoolboy would be embarrassed by. The other pundits should make an effort to match Lineker – I'd suggest a daily perm for Shearer and pigtails for Lawrenson. Alan Hansen, meanwhile, never manages to disguise his delight when England get knocked out so would have extra reason to be pleased if it meant that he could drop the blond rinse and handlebar moustache."

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

 Norwich City home, 1992-93
Norwich City's 1993 team finished third in the Premier League and went on to knock Bayern Munich out of Europe, but the defining memory of all this was a strip so bad that it must be the worst in the history of football. Scrambled eggs? Asbestos? A Magic Eye poster with a huge "Norwich and Peterborough Building Society" logo in the middle? Upon its launch chairman Robert Chase chirpily described it as a "beach shirt" but I'm still not sure whether he or anyone else knew what that actually was.

Given their other crimes against football fashion it is hardly surprising that the manufacturer, Ribero, seemed to disappear soon after. Coventry had to endure the same scrambled egg design but this time it even spread to the shorts. Brighton were decked out in a matching striped shirt and shorts romper suit and one of our two away kits was white and purple with mosaic patterned sleeves. Although we wore the shirt again the following season the Ribero deal collapsed and Mitre patches had to be sewn over their logos.

Although they failed spectacularly, in hindsight Ribero could be forgiven for following Adidas and Umbro at a time when these brands were producing rave-generation-inspired away kits for the likes of Arsenal in 1991 and Manchester United in 1992. In the midst of the current 1980s fashion revival many of the new shirts we fork out for are inspired by the ones we bought and subsequently binned 20 years ago. It may only be a matter of time before all the 1990s shirts we love to hate become cult classics – all except this one. Dan Thompson

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

from Martyn Ruscoe
"I always thought that Mikkel Beck's lumbering ineffectiveness and lack of goals were his main contribution to Middlesbrough's relegation in the late 1990s, but according to Wikipedia his half-time renditions of Colonel Bogey and the Johnny Briggs theme tune can't have helped the cause much either."

Happy football surfing for 2010. The results of the WSC Web Awards are out now and we've selected a number of Gold, Silver and Bronze worthy websites. Don't expect an awards dinner at the Savoy though.

This week in history ~ Division Two, December 11, 1965


Manchester City went on to be Second Division champions. Seven members of the side who beat Orient were in the City squad that won the League two years later. Striker Neil Young, who scored a hat-trick in this match, got the only goal in the 1969 FA Cup final. The crowd of 16,202 was City's lowest of the season.

Two other members of City's title-winning team were with other clubs in Division Two – midfielder Colin Bell was in the Bury side who beat Portsmouth, while full-back and future City captain Tony Book played for Plymouth in their defeat at Southampton. Later in the same month Plymouth sold 21-year-old striker Mike Trebilcock to Everton. He only played 11 League games for them but scored twice in the 1966 FA Cup final as Everton beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2.

Huddersfield were in the top two for most of the season but finished fourth after taking only one point from their last three games. Southampton clinched the second promotion spot with a draw against Man City on the final day. Their goalscorers against Plymouth included future Spurs striker Martin Chivers and winger Terry Paine who was to play in the 1966 World Cup finals. Chivers was the division's top scorer with 30 goals.

Jimmy Hill's Coventry finished third, a point behind Southampton, but they went up as champions the following season. Their side beaten by Huddersfield included defenders John Sillett and George Curtis who were the management team when Coventry won the 1987 FA Cup.

Middlesbrough were relegated after dropping into the bottom two on the final day with a 5-3 defeat at Cardiff while their main rivals Bury beat Carlisle. Leyton Orient, who had been in Division One three years earlier, also went down after spending most of the season at the foot of the table.

WSC Trivia ~ No 85
There have been a few regular contributors to the letters page over the years, some of whom have been published in successive issues. Richard Plummer of Cradley Heath is unusual, however, in having the same letter (about Charlton players being numbered in surname order) printed in both last month's edition and the latest one, WSC 275. This was due to a fiendishly complex series of technical glitches rather than it having been submitted twice. Send us a letter about it if you like.

from Ian Cusack
"Re James Waterson being the first WSC contributor to appear on University Challenge as mentioned in last week's Howl. Depending on how loosely you take the definition of contributor (since I think 2001 was the last time I had an article published by WSC), I can beat that record by 26 years. My team University of Ulster lost to London Birkbeck on December 15, 1983."

A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Rachid Mekhloufi, St Étienne Campeôs Europeus De Futebol 1968
Several members of Algeria's current national squad would have been eligible to play for France having been either born or brought up there. The best known Algerian footballer of the 1950s and 60s, however, played for both countries – while also taking a four-year break in his club career to support a revolutionary movement. Rachid Mekhloufi won a French league title with St Étienne in 1956-57 at the age of 21 while also being capped four times for France. Mekhloufi was expected to feature in the France squad for the 1958 World Cup but a few weeks before the tournament, he returned to Algeria. Along with eight other France-based players, Mekhloufi had joined a football team put together to support the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale) that was fighting for independence from France. Over the next four years the FLN squad, which was not officially recognised as a national team by FIFA, played 58 matches against club sides in eastern Europe, China and the Middle East. After Algeria gained independence in 1962, Mekhloufi returned to France and spent another six seasons with St Étienne, winning three more League titles while also receiving official caps for Algeria. He was a member of the Algerian coaching staff at the 1982 World Cup and was later briefly president of the country's football federation.

from Blair Matthews
"The Stickipedia section of the Weekly Howl for December 4 states that Park Doo Ik is often wrongly referred to as 'Pak' Doo Ik. This is incorrect. There is no universally agreed method of transliterating Korean characters into English, but both ways can be considered correct. The /a/ sound in Korean does not correspond directly to the English equivalent – it is much shorter. The English /r/ sound does not exist in Korean and the /a:/ sound is a little long to be a correct equivalent, but Park is a generally accepted spelling. Arguably, the closest English spelling to his name would be 'Bak'."

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