THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday
16 July 2010 ~


Many viewers of the BBC's football coverage find Alan Shearer very difficult to like but we wonder if the same may also be true of his fellow panellists. Several times during the World Cup Shearer would try to join in a bit of banter but he'd be too assertive, completely killing the mood in the process. There'd be a few seconds silence after he'd blurted out something like "But I didn't score many like that in my career!" then they would move on to the next topic. We reckon they usually go on to a wine bar without telling him.

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Badge of the week ~ FC Zestafoni
A badge of two halves, this one. A real effort has been made here to make the shape different and interesting. There's a chubby "Z" outline to start things off and then superimposed on the foreground overlap – this must have been years in the design studio – the rarely seen figure eight on quarter rotation. From the back this is an exciting, innovative badge. When viewed face on, however, this is an advanced exercise in blandness, a visual Valium, an ocular comedown. Grey, featureless and drab, a bit like Judi Dench in Ladies In Lavender. Possibly by the time the bold, cutting-edge outline had been perfected, the design team lost interest in the project or ran out of time and just filled it in quickly with a football and a date. Had Leonardo Da Vinci taken ages over preliminary sketches for his Mona Lisa and then, held to a deadline, been forced to fill in with a smiley face and two dots for eyes, you get some sort of parallel artistic failure. Cameron Carter

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from Mike Ticher
"Further to Duncan Nisbet's comment in last week's Howl about the French fan cheering up when he saw himself on the big screen, I enjoyed the reaction of the Spanish and Dutch royal families when they were caught on camera before the final. The first reaction of the younger ones seemed to be to wave and scream in excitement like everyone else, but then they stopped in mid-leap, presumably thinking: 'Hold on, we're on TV all the time.'

That shot made me wonder if this was the first World Cup final between two monarchies – it was, unless you count Miklos Horthy of Hungary in 1938 versus the extraordinarily tiny Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. Horthy was officially 'His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary', but wasn't royal by birth. Still, he would have had enough dignity not to make a goose of himself in front of a global audience."

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from Ben Hoole
"In response to Peter Hicks's admittedly good idea regarding a goal-line slope in last week's Howl, I think Peter has failed to take into account the safety aspects of said slope. In order for the ball to bounce, the slope would need to made of solid materials. My idea is simple: have a six-foot drop behind the goal line, a pit of sorts, with mats at the bottom to prevent injury. This would be handy for a player who wishes the ground would open to swallow them up."

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Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Oldham home, 1991-93
After a short flirtation with an orange kit, introduced by the chairman Ken Bates in the late 1960s, Oldham adopted blue as the basis of their home strip from 1972. This shirt was in use when Latics took their place as founder members of the Premier League. The most striking feature was a peculiar geometric design on the sleeve but few of us were too worried about that detail. In the previous season, our first back in the top flight for 68 years, we'd clung on fairly well, but it was obvious that 1992-93 was going to be much tougher.

As April came to an end with a 4-1 defeat at Spurs, relegation looked odds on. We needed three wins from three matches while hoping that Crystal Palace only got a point from their last two games. After beating Aston Villa and Liverpool, we faced Southampton at home on the last day. We went 4-1 up while Palace were losing at Arsenal. Matt Le Tissier then completed a hat-trick to make it 4-3, with minutes to go. Southampton were running to take throw-ins, doing everything to keep the game going but we finally stayed up by the narrowest of margins.

For Liverpool, Arsenal or Manchester United, I guess a shirt is associated with triumph – a League title, a Cup win. For me this Latics shirt simply means survival. Brian Simpson

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

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from William Gibson

"Asked to summarise South Africa's hosting of the World Cup, Alan Hansen toed the party line with a speedily assimilated cliche on football's healing powers, delivered in his default shopping-list drawl: 'The power of football, its ability to bring people together...' and so forth.

In fact, not everyone was brought together, certainly not inside the stadiums. The township kids were handy for helping out the BBC with shouted links to camera or comically restaging memorable moments from the games on their rudimentary scrubland pitches, so it would have been nice if they had been given press passes to recognise this work – then they could actually get into a game.

Africans who could afford tickets found it hard to get them because the only way to buy them was online with a credit card, FIFA's false presumption being that the average African has easy internet access and a credit card. That's the power of football, its ability to bring people quite close to each other depending on their access privileges."

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from John Waring
"As if to prove that referees have a tricky job, Jim Beglin felt that Luis Suárez 'bought' the last-minute foul in the World Cup third-place match that almost resulted in an equaliser from Diego Forlán's free-kick. On the BBC's highlights programme a few minutes later, Jonathan Pearce saw only a clear foul: 'Friedrich hasn't got an argument.' All this with repeated replays. Could this be an argument against enlisting technology to settle disputed decisions? Perhaps poor decisions in a flowing game are in fact preferable to 20 minutes of delay accompanied by the sound of middle-aged men arguing the toss behind glass."

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Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Scotland Panini München 74
New Zealand have just become the third country to remain unbeaten at a World Cup finals while failing to get through the group stage. Scotland were the first team to achieve this at the 1974 tournament, followed by Cameroon eight years later. In their first finals since 1958, the Scots were placed in what looked like a hard group with defending champions Brazil and Yugoslavia – who drew 0-0 in the opening match – plus Zaire. In the event, a modest 2-0 win against the African side in their first match proved decisive. Zaire lost 9-0 to Yugoslavia and then by three goals to Brazil.

Scotland began by partnering Leeds striker Joe Jordan with the 34-year-old former European Footballer of the Year Denis Law, who had just played the final League season of his career with Man City. But Law had a poor game and was subsequently left out in favour of Man Utd winger Willie Morgan. Scotland's two other games were draws. Their best chance of a win came when captain Billy Bremner was millimetres away from connecting with a cross in the second match against a laboured and frequently violent Brazilian side. Jordan, who had scored against Zaire, then got a late equaliser against the Yugoslavs in a game Scotland needed to win.

At a time when only two substitutions were allowed per match, it was curious that Scotland boss Willie Ormond only made the same two changes in three games, bringing on Coventry winger Tommy Hutchison for Kenny Dalglish. The latter failed to shine in any of his three World Cup tournaments and later said of his 1974 displays: "I was frightened to try things in case they didn't come off." Scotland hold another World Cup record in having failed to get through the group stage in eight finals appearances. But, hey, at least they used to qualify (don't take offence, Scottish readers, we're just saying).

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