THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday
1 April 2010 ~


The ease with which false stories can be spread on the internet was proved this week when a messageboard rumour that Martin O'Neill had left Aston Villa was reported as news by several websites and the radio station Talksport who had to retract later in the day. We've heard that David Cameron is to join a group of wealthy Aston Villa supporters, dubbed The Claret Clique, who have taken up owner Randy Lerner's invitation to invest in the club. Those joining Cameron in the venture include Mel Gibson, James Murdoch, Kate Winslet and Colonel Gaddafi. Let's put it out there.

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Badge of the week
This is an odd one. Apparently Andorra is a mountainous place and this makes the image at the top of Rànger's crest straightforward to interpret. When we lower our eyes, however, to the images beneath we encounter a problem. Some experts in the field have suggested the prosaic answer of two brightly coloured football boots. On closer inspection, of course, they are fertility rattlers. Traditionally, on their wedding night, the Andorran bride and groom will retire to the hotel bedroom and strip in silence. While the bride is in the bathroom the groom gets out the rattlers from his suitcase and shakes both fertility sticks vigorously. Inside the bathroom, the rhythmic clatter from the bedroom will cause the bride's sap to rise until she is quivering like an aspen. At this point she will start to make a noise rather like the unearthly hum of a spinning top at its maximum speed and this is the signal for the man to remove his socks and really get started. It is a charming ritual if you're not trying to get a good night's sleep next door. Why Rànger's have chosen to portray this particular aspect of Andorran life on their club badge is unclear. But it would be nice if some of our own British rituals found their ways onto domestic clubs' crests – like ten people eating egg sandwiches at a funeral or a pair of teenagers copulating in a Vauxhall Astra. Cameron Carter

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Sit down and breathe deeply before reading about this atrocious idea for a reality show, explained in a suitably crass press release.

"The digital reality show Bud House will pit 32 fanatical fans – one from each of the 32 countries whose national teams are participating in the soccer World Cup – against each other in a "Big Brother"-style house in Capetown for the month-long tournament.

Mixing rabid soccer fans and beer in a confined space has the potential to unleash mayhem – and high ratings. Soccer hooligans have been known to wreak havoc and even kill each other. One war, the infamous four-day Soccer War ("La Guerra del Futbol") between El Salvador and Honduras, broke out during a qualifying match for the 1970 World Cup."

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Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Darlington home, 1996-97
Darlington's 1996-97 home shirt captures the ethos of the club, rendering 20 years' worth of chronic, often comic, mismanagement and ineptitude in one inelegant man-made garment.

After five years of happy alliance with Orange (and their parent company, Hutchison Telecom) the club decided that these new-fangled mobile phones were never likely to take off, and switched their shirt sponsorship to a mysterious "company" called Soccerdome – the future of indoor football facilities, apparently. Problem was, Soccerdome only ever existed in the imagination of the club's then chief executive Mike Peden – a pipe-dream lacking either funding or planning permission.

As if sporting the logo of a non-existent sponsor wasn't enough, this shirt replaced the hugely popular black and white hooped kit worn by the finest Darlington team in recent decades throughout the 1995-96 season. Cynically introduced at the end of that season just in time for the play-off final against Plymouth, the shirt made its debut at Wembley. We lost, predictably enough. Darlington fans still visibly flinch when this shirt is brought up in conversation.

As for Soccerdome, the project was finally abandoned in 1999 without a brick being laid. Six months later, Orange was bought by France Telecom for £27 billion. Oh Darlo! Ron Hamilton

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

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More officially endorsed World Cup tat. Many of these... things look like the result of fiendish genetic experiments. James Milner would have reason to feel especially aggrieved.

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This week in history ~ Division Two, April 2, 1932



Results

Wolves returned to the top level after an absence of 26 years, winning the Division Two title by two points from Leeds. The four goals they scored at Bristol City were part of a season total of 115. Their biggest win was 7-0 against Man Utd at Molineux on Boxing Day – a day after they'd lost 3-2 to the same opponents.

The champions were managed by Major Frank Buckley who had been an officer in the 17th Middlesex Battalion, known as "the footballers' regiment", during the First World War. During his 17 years at Wolves, Buckley became known as an innovator, giving his players psychological tests and vitamin supplements. He was once accused of injecting his team with "monkey glands" which turned out to be an inoculation against colds.

Leeds were top from October to mid-March when they slipped to second after a 4-1 home defeat to Man Utd. They clinched promotion with a 1-0 win at Southampton in their penultimate match. Their fearsome wing-half Wilf Copping became an England regular and went on to win two League titles with Arsenal. He was one of the main combatants in the famously violent "Battle of Highbury" against Italy in 1934.

Bury fell to fifth after taking only three points from their last five games, leaving Stoke as the main promotion challengers. After three draws in their last four games they finished third, two points behind Leeds. Seventeen-year-old right-winger Stanley Matthews played his first two League games for the club this season. He was to be the first recipient of the European Footballer of the Year award in 1956 and retired, aged 50, nine years later.

Ten points adrift at the bottom, Bristol City were joined in Division Three by Barnsley who finished below Port Vale on goal average. This was the first of a five-year run at the second level for Man Utd, who went down from Division One three times during the inter-war period. Their average crowd of 13,011 made them only the seventh best supported team in the division.

Swansea's 3-0 defeat by Preston was part of a run of eight games without scoring for their centre-forward Cyril Pearce, who nonetheless finished as the division top scorer with 35 goals, five ahead of Billy Hartill who had joined Wolves from the Royal Horse Artillery in 1928.

Notable names in action this season included Aubrey Scriven (Bradford City), Bert Humpish (Bristol City), Sid Binks (Chesterfield), Arnold Bliss (Port Vale) and Plymouth's Fred Titmuss – no relation to his almost namesake who played cricket for England in the 1960s but spelled his surname with only one 's'.

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from Daniel Keane

"I wonder if Dave Jones ever thanked mid-1990s reggae star and lifelong Wolves fan Pato Banton for his public show of support (explained on Wikipedia) following his sacking?"



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Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Thomas Helmer, Germany Panini World Cup 98
Thomas Helmer would not have expected to wind down his playing career at Durham City's New Ferens Park. Yet that is what happened to him a decade ago. Helmer had been one of the most successful German international defenders of his era: a European Championship winner in 1996, he also played in two World Cups as well as winning three Bundesliga titles and a UEFA Cup with Bayern Munich.

Helmer turned down Liverpool to join Sunderland in the summer of 1999. However, local rumours of a training ground dispute over defensive tactics with Sunderland assistant manager Bobby Saxton soon circulated. Not helped by a series of injuries, Helmer made just two first team appearances for the club. Supporters were puzzled that a defender with 68 international caps should be featuring in their reserve games, played at Durham.

Helmer joined Hertha Berlin on loan but his return home was curtailed by an achilles injury suffered in a Champions League game against Chelsea. When Helmer came back to the north-east, Sunderland manager Peter Reid explained the decision to overlook him: "Thomas is an excellent pro, but I just felt his legs had gone and it doesn't give me any pleasure to say that." Reid added, not at all defensively: "He went to play in the Champions League so people might question why I didn't use him more but it was my judgement and I'm paid to make those decisions." Since retiring from football Helmer has worked as a television presenter and for FIFA children's charities. He is also rumoured to have featured in something called Sauna-Report Deutschland, but we're not really sure what this involved.

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