A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday
15 February 2008 ~

Richard Scudamore
will have a bit of thinking to do over the weekend. FIFA president Sepp Blatter has followed a host of international football administrators in slapping down the Premier League’s chief executive over his Game 39 plans. “This is bringing the game into disrepute. It makes no sense.” So Scudamore now has to either accept defeat, which he’ll try to dress up as a “frank exchange of views on an important topic”, or he has to go nuclear and try to take on FIFA. Either way the papers should get a lot more mileage out of the various slogans they’ve come up with since Game 39 was first announced just over a week ago. The Express has a “crusade” called Kick Out The 39th Step, the Mail’s online campaign is Just Say No! while the Sun is going with You Haven’t Got A Scuby. We might try Rotate On This Richard! (with extended middle fingers for the ‘i’s) but we have to run it past the focus group.

Badge of the Week
from Cameron Carter
Following last week's feature on the deeply tedious club crest of Coronel Bolognesi I'd like to submit this understudy from the Faroe Islands. Should Coronel Bolognesi ever be signed off from competitive football for three weeks with depression, this badge would be on hand to step in as the most unimaginative in the world. The full name of the club is B36 Torshavn and they go by the nickname B36 (the most boring nickname in the world incidentally and one that surely defies the very idea of a nickname, namely to say something unique and personal about its bearer). While B36's badge is in some ways a creative leap from the single red 'B' of Coronel Bolognesi – in that it has a B plus a number, plus a football – it is styled in a dowdy black and white and the football looks like a balloon. The only way the badge could have been more boring is if they'd made the iconography white-on-white. If there is a more understated club badge than this out there, I would probably not like to see it. 

From Craig Fletcher
“Browsing the official Barnet online shop I first found the usual odd collection of items: salt and pepper sets – ‘a must for any up and coming Footballer's Wives’, Barnet branded speedo-style swimming trunks – ‘even Duncan Goodhew would look good in these’, and amber/black ‘Pride of North London’ scarves – ‘currently out of stock’. Then came a sprinkling of Arsenal and Spurs clocks and babygrows. This makes sense, as Arsenal reserves play at Underhill and the north London football souvenir market is a big one. Things took a surreal turn, however, when I clicked on category labelled ‘Rock merchandise’. Here is an impressive selection of tie-dyed, predominantly 1960s rock band T-shirts. There is celebration of Grateful Dead's classic Europe 72 album, portrayals of Jim Morrison in ‘classic singing pose’ and further choices between the Beatles, Pink Floyd and AC/DC. Does anyone know why these are here?”

If you have strange item of football merchandise, or have found odd non-football things in a club shop, let us know.

One of our favourite football magazines is the monthly Conmebol, the official publication of the South American football confederation. It’s like a government newspaper in a one-party state, with copious coverage in every issue of large elderly men in expensive suits awarding themselves medals. But the best thing about it is that the Spanish text is also given an entirely literal English translation with no attention paid to whether it makes any sense or indeed causes offence. (A case recently was a photo caption of two black Peruvian fans. The Spanish negros bailandos was rendered in English as “dancing darkies”.)

Highlights from this month include a description of Argentinian side Arsenal de Sarandi’s win in the Copa Conmebol (the local equivalent of the UEFA Cup): “A fiery struggle was begun and grazes were multiplied during a heart-rending match with bold Arsenal playing to win or die, attacking with mid-distance shots.” “They were unable to overwhelm the thick Mexican line of defence but Andrizzi scored the discount goal with an incredible manoeuvre.” “He fell down as he attempted to turn around and on the ground he fought until he got the ball. Then he stood up and defined the move with a crossed shot. It was a memorable goal.” Meanwhile, the Arsenal coach is looking ahead – “I hope my rosters may attain important deeds” – and he was delighted with the fans’ reaction: “That hullabaloo was catching, with the sensation of hugging everybody.” More soon.

Spotted this week
From Billy Kontoulis
“Just a few days before being ‘relieved of his duties’ at Sheffield Utd, Bryan Robson was in the Dore Grill, a pub/eatery in Sheffield, last Sunday having a quiet Sunday lunch with what appeared to be his missus. Kept himself to himself mostly, probably in fear that some of the boo-boys from Bramall Lane might spot him and carry on with their abuse. In terms of facial expressions, it was just the usual scared/confused mixture that he carries off so well.”

Mention of Bryan reminds us that he may have appeared in the TV special that formed the basis for the Alan Partridge Christmas show. Partridge’s creators have said that they were inspired by an mid-1980s Russell Harty Christmas programme, broadcast from his country manor in Lancashire. If it’s the same one we’re thinking of, guests included Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, Diana Dors and her actor husband Alan Lake and their son Jason, who sang an excruciating song, plus Mr and Mrs Robson. The former was interviewed by Russell Harty while perched uneasily on a sofa, displaying that fear-to-confusion gamut mentioned above. We can’t remember what they talked about but strongly suspect that it was something to do with football.

More League managers are being sacked than ever before but their dismissals are reported in an increasingly bland way – mainly due to contractual clauses that mean managers would lose severance pay if they discuss their departure. Non-League football is very different in this respect and the Non League Paper is the place to turn for robust debate on this topic.

Take, for example, Tom Loizou, sacked by Cheshunt when they were bottom of the Southern League Premier in November. He said: “Cheshunt is a cancerous place. I can’t over-emphasise how much of a misery those people made my life.” Cheshunt’s chairman Vince Sartori offered a thoughtful response: “Tom’s talking out of his backside. He’s bitter and twisted.” None of your namby-pamby “mutual agreement” nonsense in East Herts.

WSC Trivia ~ No3
Mark E Smith contributed to a series called Embarrassing Moments in WSC 35 (January 1990). He admitted to:
“1. Leading the chant of 'We held 'em to a draw' at the school canteen after Man City had drawn 0-0 at home to Fenerbahce of Turkey in the European Cup.
2. Writing 'Catholic Gits' on the back of a Man Utd Italian supporters' coach at a service station on the M6.
3. Going for a job at Man Utd chairman Louis Edwards’ meat factory HQ, getting it, then trying to get off it, even if they did offer me £8.50 per week plus a season ticket to Man Utd.
4. Seeing George Jones of Bury jogging in a local park.
5. Lying to schoolmates that my Dad was a director of Bury and getting found out.
6. Shouting “Pieface!” at Prestwich Heys’ centre-forward during a game v Sutton Utd and getting punched. Then, at the same match, invading the pitch and getting arrested by the navvy who lived at the top of our street who also happened to be a weekend copper.”

A mine of information constructed from sticker cards
Chris Balderstone Panini Cricket 83 and Wonderful World of Soccer Stars 1974-75
Chris Balderstone was one of the very few sportsmen to have been both a First Division footballer and an England cricketer. He played one season at the top level for Carlisle in 1974-75 and made two Test appearances as a batsman against the West Indies in 1976 – as well as winning trophies with Leicestershire.

Yorkshire bowler Arnold Sidebottom, who won an England cap in 1985, also made First Division appearances as a Man Utd centre-half from 1972-74, but he retired from football at the age of 24 whereas Balderstone maintained a double career into his late 30s. The Panini cricket album was a one-off for the UK because it sold poorly in regions with no first class county team which, when you think about it, is just about everywhere.

A follow-up on the bespectacled Dutch players mentioned last week from from Ernst Bouwes
“Estudiantes already had a brutal reputation when Feyenoord took them on the 1970 World Club Championship. But the Argentines’ violence was subdued in the first game in Buenos Aires which ended 2-2. With the second leg goalless, supersub Joop van Daele, who looked a bit like Radar from MASH, was brought on and within five minutes he had scored what proved to be the winning goal. Like a playground bully, Estudiantes defender Malbernat then took Van Daele's glasses off his nose. When the striker came after him, he threw them to his colleague Pachame who finished the job by breaking the spectacles in two. Van Daele had to squint for the last 15 minutes.

“Over the years Estudiantes players have made several comments on the incident. They claimed that wearing glasses was against international rules. When the referee didn’t act, they took matters into their own hands and removed the specs which, unfortunately, broke. A second explanation is that the glasses fell of Van Daele's nose and an Argentinian player accidentally stepped on them. It has even been claimed that the Estudiantes keeper was blinded by the reflection of the artificial light in Van Daele's glasses at the moment of his shot. For their own protection, his team-mates then took the offending articles away and destroyed them.

“Later Van Daele would be the first to play with specially prepared lenses, while a song called Het Brilletje van Van Daele (The Small Glasses of Van Daele) by Luc Lutz would storm the Dutch pop charts in the Autumn of 1971. A second single Waar is de bril van Van Daele? (Where Are The Glasses of Van Daele?) by Johnny Hoes failed to chart.”

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