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1 August 2008 ~

For anyone who may have missed it, the August edition of Sky Mag, the monthly sent to satellite subscribers, contains a captivating chat with “football's original power couple”, Jamie and Louise Redknapp. The topics addressed include Jamie's views on golf (“so frustrating – you got this thing dangling at the end of your hand and this tiny ball... I can still be angry about it when I get home”), his altruistic employers (“the time and energy that Sky dedicates to sport is amazing”) and a side of Chelsea’s benefactor that we rarely get to hear about: “I'm sure a lot of problem kids are really talented but have no outlet, so make their mark by getting into trouble. Roman Abramovich has put AstroTurf pitches in deprived areas of Russia, so kids can play football all year round. I'm not saying that'll solve all the problems, but it's a start.” Isn't it. Some might wonder whether deprived areas of Russia would be less deprived if the rights to their natural resources hadn't been sold cheaply to people like... but no, Jamie will be addressing that next week.

Badge of the week
Swindon Town’s badge (used from 1991 to 2007) suggests how a Life Planner would pictorially represent their LSD trip. The central curved white line could be an S for Swindon or it could be a quiet stretch of the A4289 as it veers right into Devizes Road on your approach into town. The two parallel lines crossing the S or A-road represent either the club’s twin triumphs in the Anglo-Italian Cup or the two occasions it has gone into administration. The pie chart on the right represents the amount of debt that has been paid back to creditors. An additional spreadsheet icon paying tribute to the club’s wage expenditure between 2005 and 2007 was reluctantly dropped at the final draft stage. Then, last year, someone at the highest administrative level actually looked at the badge and decided it had to be changed quickly and forgotten. The new crest has a bird and a train on it and is much nicer. Not as non-denominationally nice as Colin Jackson is on Sunday Life, but still very nice. People like pictures, why can’t these self-styled so-called contemporary graphic designers recognise this? Cameron Carter

Are you worried about the credit crunch, global warming, war in the Middle East or the prospect of David Cameron becoming Prime Minister? Now you can keep all such cares at bay for a while by turning your life into a Panini album.

Historic Football Websites No 15 ~ Roy of the Rovers
More of an institution than a comic strip, Roy Race has long since entered the Ironic-Iconic Hall of Fame. I’m still traumatised by an incident on my school bus in 1977 when one of the back seat smokers nicked my weekly copy and began to read it out loud for the amusement of all. “The Hard Man – is this about you, mate?” he asked my quaking, skinny frame. He probably got more laughs than anyone ever did from reading the comic itself which, let’s face it, was plain ridiculous from cover to cover. The site, however, is good enough to give you a nostalgia hit to stop you rashly wasting time and money on old issues available at temptingly cheap prices on eBay. Ian Plenderleith

Tales From The Landesliga ~ No 12

WSC contributor Matt Nation’s series about watching lower-league football in Hamburg

Not everybody in Germany spent the European Championship swigging lager and lime out of the bottle and singing grammatically-dubious songs about the Nationalelf to the tune of Brown Girl In The Ring instead of watching the actual game. The FC Teutonia Ottensen von 1905 squad actually paid attention to the on-screen action, as they showed to devastating effect in the pre-season friendly against lowly Eimsbütteler Turnverband von 1889.

The best crib notes were made by the back four. The “defender who can’t be bothered to defend” principle pioneered in the 1960s by Franz Beckenbauer and then revived by Messrs Jansen, Lahm and Metzelder is clearly at Teutonia to stay. Both full-backs decide early on that they’re not going to cross the halfway line and remain entrenched in their opponents’ half, where they spend the first half needlessly fouling their counterparts near the corner flags and winning a trickle of goal kicks. The centre-halves don’t lose a tackle, but don’t win one either, preferring to trot alongside their opponents, staring inexplicably at their knees, before showing all the speed off the mark of Abide With Me once their adversaries’ trot becomes a gallop. Only the goalkeeper, who’s developed a bald patch so quickly since last summer that you could almost believe he had his hair cut like that especially so as to look like Jens Lehmann, keeps the game scoreless with a series of fine saves.

The midfield have fallen hook, line and sinker for the Doppelsechs (double six) idea of two holding midfielders that has led to the No 6 shirt usurping the No 10 as the sign of somebody with ideas above their station. The problem with Teutonia is that all four midfielders appear to want to emulate Ballack and Frings this summer, which results in six players lining up in front of the penalty area and a subsequent hole the size of a Saxonian lignite field in the middle of the park.

Up front, Oliver Bierhoff’s tautological panegyric about “forwards who can play football” seems to have made its impact, too. The strapping number nine may look and move every bit as canker-hooved as the current German manager during his playing days, but he's nowhere near as goal-hungry. Whenever he gets the chance, he passes. Shooting opportunities are laid off, headers in the six-yard box are knocked-down to badly positioned team-mates and almost every pass is played backwards. He even manages a 50-yard one-two with his own keeper following a goal kick.

Eimsbüttel, on the other hand, were clearly anything but swots during Euro 2008, as they appear to have forgotten everything they ever knew about football. The goalkeeper has to have his defenders take the goal kicks, he can't catch and he's even pulled up for passing a free-kick to the right-back inside his own box. The defenders no longer realise that being in doubt and kicking it out won't win you games, possession or applause and, if your wife is watching, will make her love you just that little bit less. And the rest of the team have obviously spent too much time playing with their children, as they disregard any positional acumen and chase after the ball in a six-strong clump instead.

It’s this tactic that gets the visitors the only goal of the game, as they wheel up the pitch, passing the home defence who are arguing about who gets to wear the Edgar Davids spectacles and then scuff the ball into the net in a footballing equivalent of a pushover try. Apart from that, the entire game is strewn with howlers so incompetent that they'd invite accusations of being staged if they were ever to appear in a Soccer Bloopers compilation.

None of the Teutonia players seems that upset, though. At the end of the game, the losers still smile, bring their kids onto the pitch and kiss women with Bastian Schweinsteiger haircuts. They obviously believe that, like the Nationalelf, they're a “tournament team” who won't let the odd bad game knock them out of their stride. However, maybe they should start thinking about how they can win 1-0 against teams from places with no infrastructure on a wet Sunday morning in November. If they don't, they can kiss goodbye not only to their kids, but also their Landesliga status come next May.

WSC Trivia ~ No 26
We stopped taking work experience students a few years ago because we ran out of things for them to do. Among our student helpers were Sam Wallace, now football correspondent of the Independent; Joe Ferrari, press officer for Norwich City; someone who was clearly bored after a few hours and left after claiming to get a message that his mother had been rushed to hospital; a monosyllabic, possibly tranquillised, weirdo who went to write very good match reports for a daily paper; and, apparently, Sky Sports reporter Bryn Law, although none of us can remember him.

A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Jadranko Topic, Velez Mostar
Fulbalska 1 Liga Nogamenta 1971-72
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was arrested this week after 15 years in hiding, had been employed as a sports psychologist by one of the region's top football teams, FK Sarajevo, during the 1980s. Jadran Topic is another notable Bosnian politician with a football background, in his case as a player. A midfielder, he was a key member of the multi-ethnic Velez Mostar team who were twice runners-up in the Yugoslav league in the mid-1970s, before ending his career in the NASL with New York Cosmos. After the civil was began in Bosnia, Topic became a representative of the province’s Croatian community and lobbied in favour of the city being divided into Croat and Muslim sectors. Topic was later questioned by war crimes investigators but not charged. He has since been involved with NK Zrinjski, a club with a largely Croatian support who have taken Velez’s place as the city’s flagship team. Like other clubs who took part in the wartime Croatian league, Zrinjski had been disbanded by the Yugoslav communist government after the Second World War but were allowed to reform during the 1990s. Velez, now seen as a specifically Muslim side, have only recently been promoted from the second division.

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