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4 April 2008 ~

Gordon Brown
is concerned, as we all are, about the influence that dissent-prone soccer louts have on the young. As he says in his latest Sun column: “Walk past any playground this week and you will see kids imitating Cristiano Ronaldo’s backheel, Cesc Fabregas’s celebration or Andy Reid’s volley.” It’s certainly true that you will see kids who look like Andy Reid, given the soaring levels of childhood obesity. Anyhow, Gordon has an idea: “I think the FA could say that if the team gangs up on a referee or several players get involved in a brawl, the captain should be disciplined alongside the individual offenders. Players would think twice about intimidating the referee if they knew their skipper could get booked.” Or indeed sent off. Gordon works among idealists so he can’t be expected to realise that wily managers would just give the captaincy to their most disposable player. They could draw straws for it at Fulham. But at least the prime minister is putting his big old head above the parapet footballwise, which is more than you can say for Aston Villa’s David Cameron or whoever leads the Liberals.

Badge of the week
The result of a 1999 merger between two neighbouring clubs, FC Midtjylland play in the Danish Superliga, finishing runners-up in last year's championship. I suppose Midtjylland translates as “Middle Land”. You can just imagine the uproar if Liverpool and Everton ever merged into one team, and then called themselves Middlepool. Well, the Danish are clearly more open to change than we are. Anyway, Midtjylland's badge bears the representation of a wolf, based on the legend that wild wolves used to roam the area 200 years ago. While there clearly appears to be the menacing snout and eyes of a wolf staring straight back at you if you're looking for it, if you didn't know it was supposed to be a wolf and relied on the two-dimensional view you might instead see either an early Space Invaders animation or a headless man participating in traditional Greek dance. Both of which are quite sinister in their own way, but lacking the immediate threat of a wild staring wolf. Well done, though, FC Midtjylland, for bringing the 3D effect into the largely 2D world of football club crests. Cameron Carter

Football people are also role models in the promotion of literacy. You may remember National Book Day two years ago when Premier League managers were asked to select a favourite title. David Moyes went for Animal Farm and Sir Alex Ferguson for Treasure Island, while Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab was the surprise choice of self-proclaimed Marxist Paul Jewell, who may not have much time for reading what with one thing and another. A similar scheme called The Premier League Reading Stars – backed by the National Literacy Trust and the Football Foundation – is now in its sixth year. A player from each club chooses a book, with all 20 then being stocked in nominated libraries. Children's literature features heavily in the latest selections, including Mark Schwarzer’s choice, Megs and the Vootball Kids, written by Neil Wallace and... Mark Schwarzer. A sceptic might wonder whether someone is using the Reading Stars initiative for commercial advantage. But we’d prefer to reflect on the words of Sir Dave Richards of the Premier League: “By using the power of football we can successfully change people's attitudes to reading.” We can and we must.

Historic football websites No 1 ~ Soccer Songs and Chants
It’s quite an achievement for any non-profit website to last more than a year or two, but last November this online anthology of crowd anthems (first featured in WSC 159) reached its tenth birthday. I was pleased to see one that tickled me at Craven Cottage a couple of years back: ‘Al Fayed Al Fayed/He wants to be a Brit/And QPR are shit.’ In one short chant they manage to celebrate their bampot owner without eulogising him, and gratuitously diss their rivals too. Spend hours browsing this site for more examples of choral poetic wit. Ian Plenderleith

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Spotting players

from Louis Kennedy
“A vintage encounter, from nearly 30 years ago. It’s early on a Saturday evening and I’m heading for a pub in World’s End, Chelsea. I overtake two men who are swaying slightly. They may have been drinking. The smaller of the two, blond and stocky, barks a question at me: ‘Hey, Wozzakingsrod?’ Pardon? ‘Thekingsrod.’ The Kings’ Road? ‘Aye. Wozza?’ I give him directions but in doing so I realise that I’m talking to Asa Hartford, the diminutive Scottish playmaker with Man City. And his silent companion, with bushy hair and moustache, is Tony Henry – a utility player bound for Oldham, as all such Man City players are. With no word of thanks, they walk off. A few minutes later, I see them at a road junction. Asa shouts over to me, with thumbs up: ‘Kingsrodeh? S’right...’”

from Mike Innes
MIE Rampole are currently in the fifth tier of Japan's footballing pyramid, but have long-term ambitions to make it as a pro side. In common with J-League teams such as Ehime FC and their oranges – as previously introduced to Howl readers – the modestly sized club have drawn upon one particular aspect of their local area's cultural characteristics as they seek to ground themselves in the community. But while the first part of the name comes pretty straightforwardly from the initials of their home prefecture, Mie, the town of Ise and a jaunty E for Everybody, Rampole is perhaps a bit trickier to get to grips with.

It's a corruption of Rampo Edogawa, the pen name of Taro Hirai, a notable author of detective novels who was born and set many of his stories in the region. Pondering the knotty issue of mascots, the club rummaged through a copy of Hirai's collected works and identified two of his characters – Kaito-kun and Ran-chan – as suitable candidates, albeit in pepped-up cartoon form. And there's a Rampole-esque masked man of mystery also featured on their badge, too.”

Mike’s online guide to Japanese football can be found here

This week in history ~ Scottish Premier Division, April 5, 1980


Five Aberdeen players in their game this week were in the side that beat Real Madrid in the Cup-Winners Cup final four years later. The club’s top scorer in 1979-80, Steve Archibald, wasn’t among them – he was playing his final season before joining Spurs.

Aberdeen were in the middle of a 15-game unbeaten sequence that led to their first championship since 1954-55. Another win at Parkhead, 3-1 on April 23, was to prove crucial as Alex Ferguson’s side took the title from Celtic by a point.

Former Lisbon Lion Billy McNeill was in his second season as Celtic manager. His team against Aberdeen included 36-year-old Bobby Lennox, the only member of that 1967 European Cup-winning side still playing. Celtic’s scorer, winger Johnny Doyle, died the following year after being electrocuted at home.

Third place went to St Mirren, their highest league finish since 1892-93. Their opponents Hibernian included a full-figured George Best, making one of his 13 appearances on loan from the NASL. Hibs were to end the season without an away win and went down along with Dundee.

St Mirren’s local rivals Morton were second in mid-March but fell away to sixth after failing to win any of their last five games. Their striker Andy Ritchie was the league’s top scorer, with 19 goals.

WSC Trivia ~ No 9
Some extracts from an article about ITV commentator Hugh Johns in the third WSC annual, Late Tackle, published in 1991. We thought it best not identify him at the time as there was some swearing. Matthew Simmons was in the Swansea City press box for a match against Fulham.

“The door opens and a portly, bespectacled grey-haired man in the twilight of middle age enters. It is a legendary television commentator. Our man further announces his presence with a cheery, ‘Swansea, Saturday afternoon, f****** impossible to drive.’ Swans win 4-2, a Paul Chalmers hat-trick sending everyone down memory lane. The legend gets into his stride: ‘Last Swans hat-trick, Paul Raynor, Barry Town, Welsh Cup, Vetch Field, last year.’ The man really does talk without the benefit of verbs. Long-stored Seventies commentary is reactivated in my brain. I savour the memory of Crystal Palace goals (‘Super drive, Steve Perrin, 1-0 Palace!’) for a few heady moments. I’m left with the abiding memory of a figure leaning out of the window in front of me attempting to identify the linesman at fault for Fulham’s first goal. My view of the game mostly obscured by his bottom, the commentary uncalled for and unabated, ‘Linesman, red flag, f****** hopeless!’ And I didn’t even see his lips move.”

A mine of information constructed from sticker cards
Erwin Kostedde, Kickers Offenbach König Fussball 1972-73
Centre-forward Erwin Kostedde was the first black footballer to be capped by West Germany. The son of an American soldier, he played three times, including against England at Wembley in 1975. A consistent goalscorer throughout his career, Kostedde had spells in Belgium and France as well as playing for eight German clubs. Kickers Offenbach are the team he is is most associated with and it was while playing for them that he won the Bundesliga Goal of the Season award in 1973-74. Among the several other players of American-German background, the best-known was Bayer Leverkusen central defender Tom Dooley who took a crash course in English before winning his first cap for the USA in 1992.

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League table courtesy of the place to go for football stats & odds comparison – English & Scottish stats from 1871 plus European & International

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