THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday
19 March 2010 ~


So, another pulsating night of European football in west London. The area's top team may be owned by a dislikeable billionaire but for once let's put that aside and say well done, Fulham.

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Badge of the week ~ FK Mogren
Who is the mysterious figure on the promontory? Is it an outcast woman? Perhaps she has lain with a foreign soldier who has since sailed away and for whose improbable return she waits every night by the implacable sea, like in The French Lieutenant's Woman? If this is the case, her mood will not be lightened by being hit on the head by a giant beach ball. They should have separate areas of the beach for children and outcast women, or maybe outcast women should only be allowed on popular stretches from October until April. Anyway, if this is the meaning behind the image it has two main lessons for us. Firstly, do not sleep with military men unless you absolutely make sure you have their mobile phone numbers and, secondly, have clearly visible signs on your beaches denoting who may use them and at what times of the year. There really should be more socially responsible badges like this. Cameron Carter

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from Graeme Hall
"After an unconvincing England performance under Steve McClaren a couple of years back, my dad was treated to the dubious pleasure of sharing a first class train carriage with one Wes Brown. Apparently, Brown cut a lonely figure in his England tracksuit, with his minder/agent/groupie sitting opposite. My dad, always one for chatting to complete strangers, approached Brown with the greeting: 'You should have been sent off last night.' To which England's great hope at right-back replied (without looking up): 'Football's a physical game.' Words that would come back to haunt him as he now spends more time on treatment tables than in carriages on the Virgin Pendolino."

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Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Glentoran home, 1994-95
I've a nostalgic reason for discussing this hideous shirt – it was the first Glentoran jersey I owned, bought for a tenner, brand-new and plastic-wrapped, from a shifty man with a collapsible table outside Bangor's Clandeboye Park just a few days after the official club shop had been burgled. This was our initial Diadora kit after nearly a decade of Umbro and they hinted at the dilution of their brand in the quest for global sportswear domination by advertising in the programme as suppliers to "Paris – London – Milan – Mersey Street". This season was also the fresh dawn of the Tommy Cassidy era, in which despite 25 permanent and loan signings in just over three years, the ex-Newcastle midfielder and Gateshead manager regularly proclaimed us to be "only two players short". Of what, we'll never know.

This was the shirt of Glen Little who joined us from Crystal Palace before moving on to Burnley, a Gold Cup final win over Crusaders and an epic end of season rally to see us avoid relegation. The fashion was fitting for the age and remained true to the distinctive colour combination we've worn since 1882. A few seasons ago the Glens reverted to an all-white outfit with green, red and black trims, popularised by legendary sides of the 1960s and 70s, but many Glenmen, this one included, hope that next season will see a return to green shirts, black shorts and red socks. If we do, I may even buy from the club shop. David Wylie

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

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from Ian Pickering

"Think you've hit on something with football detective duos from previous Howls. My suggestion would be: Roberto Mancini as a sharp-dressing, fine-art-loving antiques dealer with an eye for the ladies and Brian Kidd as his loveable and scruffy working class dogsbody who is always getting into scrapes usually involving some sort of disguise. Or Tony Pulis as a no-nonsense, tough-talking private eye with Peter Reid as his Scouse partner who died some years ago but has come back as a ghost. But only Tony can see him."

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This week in history ~ Premier League, March 20, 2004



Results

Robert Pirès and Dennis Bergkamp scored the goals which maintained Arsenal's nine-point lead. They were to win the League by 21 points, becoming the first team since Preston in 1888-89 to go through a top-level season unbeaten. In their 22-man squad, goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was the only ever-present while 19-year-old forward David Bentley was one of two players to make a single appearance.

In their first season under Roman Abramovich's ownership, eventual runners-up Chelsea beat Arsenal in the quarter-finals of the Champions League then lost surprisingly to Monaco. Manager Claudio Ranieri was replaced at the end of the season by Jose Mourinho, whose Porto team became European champions having knocked out Man Utd in the quarter-finals.

Several matches were postponed or abandoned this weekend due to exceptionally high winds and an Everton fan was killed by flying debris before their match at Leicester. In that game Marcus Bent, who was to join Everton in the summer, scored a 90th-minute equaliser against opponents reduced to ten men after Duncan Ferguson was dismissed for grabbing Steffen Freund by the throat.

Massimo Maccarone scored two of Middlesbrough's goals in their 5-3 defeat of Birmingham. Steve McClaren's Boro had just won their first major domestic trophy, beating Bolton 2-1 in the Carling Cup final having knocked out an under-strength Arsenal in the semis.

French striker David Bellion was one of Man Utd's scorers against Spurs. Signed, in controversial fashion, from Sunderland at the start of the season he was to play just 24 matches in two years at Old Trafford being returning home. United beat Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final then defeated Millwall 3-0 in one of the most one-sided finals ever.

Liverpool took the fourth Champions League spot, finishing four points ahead of Newcastle – who lost to Marseille in the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup – and Aston Villa. Despite winning only two of their last ten games Charlton came seventh, their highest League finish since 1952-53.

Financially crippled by their board's reckless spending, Leeds were in the relegation places from October onwards and ended up in 19th place. They went down with two of the promoted clubs, bottom-placed Wolves and Leicester, all three finishing on 33 points.

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from John Foster

"I liked this Wikipedia mention of future England disappointment Joe Lewis's dietary preferences, not least because it falls under the heading 'International Career'. Do you think he might have written it himself?"

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If there's any truth in the rumours that David Beckham is about to be dropped by his manager, Simon Fuller, he could do worse than sign up with the PR company who has the account for Mount Sinai's Department of Orthopaedics, as they seem very keen to connect with him. If he hasn't yet trademarked "Brit David Beckham" he needs to get onto it – it could be big:

"Soccer's World Cup will go on but without its biggest star, Brit David Beckham, who had surgery on Monday to repair his torn left Achilles' tendon and experts in sports medicine from Mount Sinai's Department of Orthopaedics in New York City are available to comment on the injury and typical recovery pattern.

Although they are not treating Beckham personally, Mount Sinai specialists can explain what Achilles' tendon injuries are; procedures and treatments, and offer a general analysis of the typical recovery. Common injuries such as torn Achilles' and torn rotator cuffs... are treated on a daily basis by Mount Sinai's orthopaedics team and can be explained in simple terms to give soccer fanatics and casual observers alike an idea of Beckham's situation."

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Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Massimo Bonini, Juventus Panini Calciatori 1987-88
Many footballers have played at international level for countries to whom they have only a marginal connection. Andrei Kanchelskis, for example, was one of several Ukrainian players who opted to play for Russia after the USSR broke up in the early 1990s despite never having lived there. But few have turned down a call-up from a major footballing nation when the country in which they were born wasn't playing international fixtures. That's what happened to midfielder Massimo Bonini who won three Serie A titles and a European Cup in seven seasons with Juventus in the 1980s.

Bonini is from San Marino who didn't play their first official match until 1990. He was capped by Italy at Under-21 level but declined invitations to join the full squad because that would have prevented him from ever turning out for his home nation of 30,000 people. The big day came on November 14, 1990 when San Marino staged a European Championship qualifier against Switzerland watched by a crowd of 931. It was something of an anti-climax for the 31-year-old Bonini, now a Bologna player, as he was substituted due to injury at half time with his side already three down – they finally lost 4-0. Injuries kept him out of the next six fixtures before his comeback in another 4-0 defeat away to Scotland in November 1991.

Bonini also missed the only game in which San Marino avoided defeat in their first decade in international football – a 0-0 home draw with Turkey in 1993 – although he was in the team that took a ten-second lead against Graham Taylor's England before losing 7-1 in a World Cup qualifier later that year. He won his 19th and final cap as a substitute in a 7-0 home defeat by Russia in June 1995. Bonini later coached San Marino for a couple of years and, as you might expect, has since been voted the country's greatest-ever sportsman.

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