THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday
9 May 2008 ~


Connoisseurs of swearing will already be aware of Setanta’s extensive, twice-weekly live coverage of the Conference. Throughout the season, the microphones have picked up some ringing outbursts of industrial language in crowds of a couple of thousand. The network is doubling the risk by staging touchline interviews with managers during the games – a dugout exchange with Nigel Clough of Burton Albion during the play-off semi-finals was introduced by an audible “b*llocks!” from somewhere behind him. But given that players can usually behave themselves in interviews, Setanta shouldn’t be blamed for a chat with Exeter’s Steve Tulley turning into a festival of f-words to mark his side’s surprise defeat of neighbours Torquay in the other semi-final. As a spokesman said: “We apologised three times and it could have happened to anybody.” There have been no complaints from viewers, either, which is as it should be.

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Badge of the week
AFC Bournemouth are pushing it a bit here. Their badge, trying to be different, ends up looking like a filler entry in A Child's First Book of Optical Illusions. At first glance it's a 1970s-style graphic of the type used by regional news programmes of that period to show how vibrant the South Coast is, with news and events flooding into the region through fizzing black media cables. And then the eye realises that the coast pictured is a northern one and that those aren't media cables, those are strands of flowing jet black hair, and there surely is Mark Hateley in the twilight of his career rising to flick on a near post corner. It's an unorthodox image for a club crest and certainly, unlike Bournemouth's defence this season, gives the illusion of movement. However, a snub-nosed man with a receding mullet is not something to wear on one's chest with pride and so, as far as badges go, the Bournemouth design fails in the most important area of all. Cameron Carter

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Spotting players
from Keith Turner
“I’m in a packed pub in Bloomsbury on a Friday night in 1983. My friends and I notice a group of men standing together, demurely sipping their pints and having muted conversations. They’re all wearing the same tie. Freemasons? No, they look quite young apart from that middle-aged one with the blond hair. Why, he’s Alan Durban, manager of Sunderland. It’s their first team squad – there’s Gary Rowell and Barry Venison and... some others (it wasn’t one of their better known teams). One of my friends goes past them on the way to bar and attempts conversation with Gary Rowell by saying ‘Are you Gary Rowell?’ to which he responds ‘Yes, mate’. A follow-up question hadn’t been prepared so they both nod and turn away. At some point in the evening the squad drifted off, possibly to a circus as this wasn’t long after Alan Durban had justified a dour 0-0 away draw on Match of the Day by saying ‘If you want entertainment, go to a circus’. Fuelled by warm ale and crisps they won 1-0 at Arsenal the following day.”

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Historic Football Websites No 5 ~ RSSSF

It’s a sensible rule of filing never to create a folder titled “miscellaneous”. Luckily the creators of the RSSSF (Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation) newsgroup ignored good sense when they began transferring their records to a website in 1994. Virtually unchanged in its extremely simple presentation since, its most precious gems are to be found on various pages titled “misc” or “trivia”. My favourite is the one detailing international tournaments as diverse as the Francophone Games, the UEFA Regions Cup and the Arab Police Championship (in which Iraq under Saddam were predictably fearsome). If you ever need to know the results of the 1905 Muratti Vase, the most prestigious tournament in the Channel Islands, this is where you will find it (Guernsey beat Jersey 1-0 in the final, incidentally). But don’t expect to leave without sampling other dusty corners of the site, where the virtual equivalent of cardboard boxes labelled “Trivia on the Mitropa Cup 1927-39” or “St Helena Cup Finals” are still kept Mike Ticher

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Tales From The Landesliga ~ No 6

WSC contributor Matt Nation's series about watching lower-league football in Hamburg
Like many football hotbeds in Germany, Wedel is a terrifyingly uneventful place. Pancake-flat, well-heeled and empty-pavemented, this housing estate on Hamburg's western border is famous only for a riverside gramophone atop a flagpole, which rattles out a random national anthem every time a ship sails past. Being in Wedel is like being on a Mad Max filmset, only with bungalows in the desert. You could almost call it the Kaiserlautern of the north.

Unsurprisingly, gates at the Elbestadion, home to Wedeler Turn- und Sportverein von 1863, are among the highest in the Landesliga, with over 200 showing up for the visit of Turn- und Sportverein Germania Schnelsen von 1921. Two-thirds of them are packed in down one touchline, which appears to be slightly lower than the pitch. Coupled with a banked playing surface that reduces cross-field visibility to about 30 yards, this means that the full-backs and wingers come under particularly close scrutiny.

At first glance, today's wide man isn't up to much. With his rag-doll shoulders and standpipe legs stunted by never having had to walk up a hill, he looks more like a Saturday supermarket lad than the captain of a quarter-professional football team. He spends the first half an hour tugging at his cuffs and wiping away a wind-induced dual carriageway of snot, springing to life only to tell a particularly vocal home supporter to pipe down (“Just because you haven’t got any mates doesn't mean you have to bend my ear”).

When he finally gets he ball, however, he fair slashes his way through the cloak of indifference that's enveloped the terraces. A pirouette on one stud, a couple of tippy-tappy passes, a one-two with an opponent's midriff and an inch-perfect cross and it's one-nil.

After the break, he stays on our side of the pitch and soon does the same thing again. And again and again. Teasing the visiting defence with all the jiggery-pokery of a pensioner doing a jigsaw, he initiates attacks at will that invariably terminate in a cussing goalkeeper and often in goal-hanging forwards getting their name read out over the Tannoy.

At the end of the game, the hosts have gone nap and really ought to be Morris-dancing in delirium in the centre circle, just like they've seen HSV doing on the telly. But they're strangely subdued, pouting and staring at their bootlaces; they know that Wedel is only as interesting as its last game, and that that last game has just finished. The announcer tries to perk them up by saying something like “only another 334 hours until something kicks off again”, but to no avail. And he's wrong anyway, as an elderly fan, who performs the dismissive hand movement that people get free when they turn 65 in Germany, is quick to point out. Apparently, a French fishing smack is due along the Elb on Tuesday week. And you don't get that sort of thing in Kaiserslautern.

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from Ian Vincent
“I thought I’d share with you perhaps the most meaningless comment ever broadcast over footage of Association Football. It occurred during the second leg of the Liverpool v Chelsea Champions League semi-final, just before the end of the first half, with Chelsea leading 1-0. Andy Gray summoned up the energy to create sound that came out as the words: ‘In three minutes the Liverpool manager has a decision to make – what to do.’ I haven’t bothered researching but has anyone heard anything more redundant than this statement in their years of exposure to sports commentary? I doubt it. While I’m on this particular game, I thought I heard Andy Gray refer to a hopeful ball into the box as ‘bed and breakfast to John Terry’. Did I actually hear this please?”

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WSC Trivia ~ No 14
WSC had no involvement with the film called When Saturday Comes, the story of a footballing factory worker, played by Sean Bean, which bombed emphatically when released in 1996. We were told that it was originally going to be called A Pint of Bitter but that Sean Bean suggested When Saturday Comes during a brainstorming session with the producers. If he subsequently made films called Shoot!, Match Weekly and Football Today, they didn’t even get as far as a video release.

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Stickipedia  
A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Peter Knowles, Wolverhampton Wanderers Wonderful World of Soccer Stars 1968-69
In this sticker album, Peter Knowles is adroitly summed up as a “dark, rangy forward who often displays useful opportunist ideas”. A regular with the England Under-23s, Knowles had been widely tipped to make the 1970 World Cup squad when he announced his retirement on becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. In a TV interview Knowles explained that he felt his fiery temperament might soon lead him to seriously injure an opponent. He played his match for Wolves just before his 24th birthday in September 1969, although the club retained his registration for another decade. For a while after he retired, Knowles’s training kit would be laid out on Mondays in the hope that he might show up, but he only ever returned to Molineux to attend religious conventions.

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