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18 December 2009 ~

Mick McCarthy's decision to field an under-strength Wolves team at Old Trafford this week has been widely criticised. Arsène Wenger even suggested that it undermines "the international credibility of the Premier League". Surprisingly, however, McCarthy was defended by another experienced manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who commented: "To my mind, there was no discernible difference in the Wolves team that could have played to the one that did." Sir Alex seemed to have been suppressing laughter as he said this but that's just the sort of happy-go-lucky fellow he is.

Badge of the week
Universitatea Craiova's club crest depicts a lion wielding a sword while standing on a football. The main thing to note here is that this lion appears to have had a human arm grafted on to its body, the better to wield swords in an aggressive fashion. If there is one thing more dangerous than an angry lion advancing upon you, it is an angry lion advancing upon you with the ability to hold things. Perhaps after last week's dragon/griffin, this is another mythical creature that is nine-tenths lion, one-tenth stroppy bloke. This hybrid is clearly a far more dangerous animal, as one might think one had escaped the lion by scrambling into a tree, only to be struck on the head by a rock hurled with the human right arm. Also, the human hand could allow the creature to operate a torch if the chase occurred at night. The tongue sticking out is because the lion (or li-man) is concentrating very hard on sending messages from its lion brain to its human arm, I would think. The most apposite motto below might be "No, You Are Not Getting Your Ball Back" (in Latin). Cameron Carter

from Andrew Masson
"The Twitter page of 'Scotland's most technically gifted centre-half', Gary Caldwell, is surely a fake but worth seeing anyway."

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Grimsby Town home, 2003-04
After the horrors of the 1990s, when they did their best to support players kitted out in pinstripes and a truly horrible "blue wave" design, Grimsby Town fans have been delighted since the turn of the century with the return to traditional black and white stripes. It's the sponsor's logo in the middle that makes this shirt distinctive, though. Even if you ignored Jarvis's association with the Potters Bar rail crash and the government's bizarre decision to award contracts for education consultancy to a construction and engineering firm (oh, that's right – the chief executive donated cash to the Labour Party), a deal with a nationally recognised company still sounded too good to be true. Of course, it was.

The deal was brokered by Jarvis's commercial manager, Town fan Steve Venney, without (it turned out) the knowledge of his company's board. Venney then disappeared en route to the press conference where the sponsorship was revealed and doubts were compounded when it later emerged that he'd received a prison sentence for fraud in 1996. Sure enough, just one year into the three-year deal, the Mariners announced a new sponsorship with local seafood company Young's. The club never breathed a word about what happened to the Jarvis contract and the local media never dared ask, but the word was that Venney's bosses paid up half of the £500,000 deal to be released from it after one year. I'd give anything to see the looks on faces if you wore this in the boardroom on match day. Pete Green

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

from Chris Berkeley
"Robbie Fowler writes a weekly column called Up Front for that august journal of record the Townsville Bulletin. Attention has been drawn to an intriguing snippet at the foot of this week's column about team-mate Jeremy Brockie: 'The lads have more than their fair share of interesting hobbies to pass the time when they're away from the football field, none more than Jeremy Brockie. While some head to the beach or have a round of golf to blow off a bit of steam, Jeremy prefers to get out in the yard and do a bit of lawn mowing. Just ask him, he's more than happy to cut anyone's grass.' A-League commentators have declined to speculate on what he meant."

from Ian Rands
"The decision to go with Hillsborough over Bramall Lane as a possible 2018 World Cup venue has caused some consternation to the red and white half of Sheffield. Someone clearly has a view on where the blame lies according to Sir Dave Richards's Wikipedia entry."

WSC Trivia ~ No 86
In WSC 155 (January 2000) we asked several contributors to come up with a hope for football in 2000. Suggestions that might still apply ten years on included:

Harry Pearson – "Someone high up at the FA to slap his forehead one morning and say: 'I've got it! Why don't we stop the Premiership wages spiral by putting a cap on admission prices!'"

Ken Gall – "That players, agents, chairmen and administrators will cease to resemble those cartoons in which a laughing Scrooge McDuck pours buckets of gold coins over his own head."

John Williams – "Maybe those clubs in which BSkyB has a shareholders' interest (Leeds, Man Utd and Man City) could rationalise and merge to establish a new TV 'superclub' in the north-west of England. They could then play in a very large TV studio and organise their own international football circuit, including, of course, the much sought-after fixtures against the Melbourne Sharks and Shanghai Tea."

Dave Robinson – "That referees become professional and get paid £20,000 per match. Possessing flashier cars, bigger houses and better clobber is the only way they are going to win the respect of today's players."

Ian Plenderleith – "I follow Lincoln City FC and Scotland. There is no such thing as hope."

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

Alan West, Luton Town Topps Bazooka cards 1974-75
The text with this card says that midfielder Alan West joined Luton from Burnley only after a transfer to Sunderland "had fallen through". In fact Sunderland's medical staff advised him to retire because of a muscular problem that might cripple him if he carried on playing. Having ignored their advice, West featured in Luton's Division Two promotion team in 1973-74 and played for a further nine years. Perhaps he felt that someone was watching over him. While he was with Luton, West became an active member of a local church and subsequently declined to play in the club's occasional Sunday fixtures because of his religious beliefs. After retiring he became a pastor and currently works for the Luton Christian Fellowship.

West was not the only player of his generation to have a post-football career in the church. The suitably-named Alan Comfort was a winger with Cambridge Utd, Leyton Orient and Middlesbrough before injury ended his career at the age of 25 in 1989. He was ordained in the Church of England during the 1990s and became the official pastor to Leyton Orient while working as a vicar at several churches in Essex. He recently resigned his post at St Mary's church in Great Baddow after making critical comments about homosexuality in his sermons. Since Alan West's time, one other former Luton player has made headlines for his spiritual activities. Danish striker Lars Elstrup joined an "anarcho-Buddhist" commune after retiring and was subsequently arrested for indecent exposure. He is now said to live a life of quiet contemplation.

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