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16 April 2010 ~

As we know football is the most popular sport in the world. So it's only appropriate that citizens of every country are taking it in turns to claim that they are bidding for Liverpool. Today it's a man from Syria who is said to be facing competition from China and at least one part of the United Arab Emirates. Once the political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan has settled down we hear that they will be making an offer, followed closely by dyed-in-the-wool Kopites from the Faroe Islands, Laos and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Badge of the week

Here, with Atalanta's crest, we see the three stages of evolution of a central image. The first, rather crude effort shows a long-haired naked man air-guitaring, completely unselfconsciously, while apparently incorporating into his performance a little run towards the front of the "stage", possibly imitative of the style of Dr Feelgood's Wilko Johnson. Having emerged from their opiate stupor, the designers have then cleaned up the act somewhat and have a naked woman running to serve a customer with a lump of sugar. Speed of distribution may be the message here, but it doesn't really matter as long as the image is no longer a naked man playing air-guitar. Finally, a sane corporate mind has become involved in the branding process and the figure has cut their hair, got a proper job and generally become more of a role model to young people. This is the proper progression – from naked innocence, through adolescent carelessness, to someone who has a career and a mortgage but can still find time to toss their head in the sun. Cameron Carter

from Nick Mitchell
"Is there anything to stop a goalkeeper changing his shirt before taking part in a penalty shootout? I've checked in various You Are The Ref columns but it's not mentioned. Research presented at the British Psychological Society's Annual Conference this week should give Sir Alex, Rafa and Arsène something to think about."

Dr Iain Greenlees and Michael Eynon at the University of Chichester looked at the performance and the expectation of success of 40 university footballers against goalkeepers wearing black, blue, green, yellow and red strips. The fewest number of goals were scored against a goalie in red (54 per cent success rate) followed by yellow (69 per cent success rate), then blue and green (72 per cent and 75 per cent respectively). Dr Greenlees said: "These findings lend support to the idea that red clothing could give a sportsperson or team a small but meaningful advantage in a competitive encounter."

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

VfL Bochum home, 1998-99
What do you do if your team has a reputation for being a "grey mouse" – never winning anything, but rarely getting relegated? Well, if you’re VfL Bochum in 1997, you celebrate your first appearance in the UEFA Cup by wearing a home kit that looks like the hallucinations of a drug-addled jockey. The rainbow motif was that of sponsors Faber, a lottery service provider, and also appeared on the red away kit.

"The main problem wasn't even the colours, you hardly noticed them during the match,"recalled Bochum midfielder Peter Közle. "But the material was incredibly heavy and stiff, and the logo on the chest felt like armour." Sure enough, in their second year of wearing the kit, VfL went down from the Bundesliga.

This season, however, Bochum's home shirt has met with almost universal approval. Its faded blue-and-white stripes reflect the club's image as hard-working, no-nonsense grafters. But their "raspberry yoghurt red" third kit makes their players look distressingly like a phalanx of 1980s Pink Panther candy bars. "I'll never wear that thing again," predicted defender Christian Fuchs in August, five months before he wore it again in Berlin. Paul Joyce

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

Graphology is one of the many pseudo-sciences exposed by writers such as Ben Goldacre. Further confirmation that it's a load of old bobbins was supplied this week by Emily Bache, professional graphologist, who gave the press her take on Wayne Rooney's self-portrait, produced for a charity auction.

"His art might not be something he's well known for but the way he's done his face is Picasso-esque. Looking at his picture, it has a very large head and prominent eyes and mouth. Interestingly, he has used a blue pen for his eyes and a red pen for his mouth, the latter suggesting a sensuality."

So, no mention of the fact that it looks like Isabella Rossellini.

This week in history ~ Division One, April 17, 1920


Leaders for most of the season, West Brom had clinched their first and to date only title a week before with victory over Bradford PA. Officially the team didn't have a manager – secretary Fred Everiss was in charge, aided by chairman William Bassett who had played in the Albion side that won the 1888 FA Cup.

The champions featured six international players including wing-half and captain Jesse "Peerless" Pennington who won 25 England caps and striker Fred Morris, the league's top scorer with a then-record 37 goals.

This was the former Woolwich Arsenal's first season at the top level to which they had been controversially promoted despite only finishing fifth in Division Two in 1913-14. They had claimed that crowds of 70,000 would come to their new stadium at Highbury, although "only" 55,000 turned up for their first match; a reporter wrote that you could "dance jazz" in the spaces on the terracing.

Runners-up Burnley pursued West Brom from a distance throughout the season but their challenge faded with four defeats in their last nine matches. Scottish striker Joe Anderson, signed from Clydebank a month earlier, scored a hat-trick in the defeat of Everton. Third-placed Chelsea were the best supported team, as they had been for several seasons before the War, with an average crowd of 42,615.

Blackburn saved themselves from relegation on the final day with a 4-0 defeat of Sheffield United in which striker Ernest Hawksworth scored a hat-trick for the second successive match. Notts County, beaten 2-1 at home by Man Utd, took the second-bottom spot. Sheffield Wednesday finished 13 points adrift at the foot.

Billy Kirton, who was among Aston Villa's scorers in their win over Sheffield Wednesday, also got the only goal in the FA Cup final to beat Huddersfield at Stamford Bridge. A club called Gnome Athletic played in the Cup this season but were knocked out in the final qualifying round.

Everton's side included the unpronounceable winger Sam Chedgzoy, who went on to be a main supplier to the prolific centre-forward Dixie Dean. Other notable names included Len Smelt (Burnley), Jack Cock (Chelsea), Albert Iremonger (Notts County) and Alf Dolphin (Oldham).

from Rich McDermott

"I may be the last person to be aware of it but I had to forward on this strikingly realistic Lego recreation of the Man Utd v Bayern Champions League quarter-final. All that's lacking is a puce-faced manager on the touchline."

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Louis van Gaal, Sparta Rotterdam Top Voetbal 80-81 & Guus Hiddink Panini Voetbal 79
Top managers come from a variety of backgrounds: a few were also successful players, while just as many never made the grade at all – José Mourinho and Rafa Benítez being examples of the latter. But the majority fit somewhere between the two extremes, as competent players who had long league careers but fell short of international level. Such was the case with the two best-known Dutch coaches today – Louis van Gaal and Guus Hiddink – both of whom were stylish midfield playmakers hindered by a lack of pace.

Van Gaal left Ajax aged 21 without having played in their first team. After spells with Antwerp and Telstar, he became the pivotal but rather slow link between defence and attack for Sparta Rotterdam. His claim to fame in his playing days was his eloquence as the representative of the players' union at Dutch FA meetings, where many board members were said to be left speechless by Van Gaal's arguments.

Guus Hiddink trained to be a sports teacher and did an apprenticeship at his local football club, De Graafschap ("The County"). The club's head coach told Hiddink that he was good enough to be a player so he joined the first-team squad. Three years later he earned a high-profile transfer to PSV but failed to settle and returned home after two years, taking De Graafschap to promotion in 1972-73. He stayed with them until their relegation in 1977 then spent four years with NEC Nijmegen, while also playing in the US in the summer. When he was with San Jose Earthquakes in 1980, Hiddink was George Best's flatmate  and no doubt whiled way the hours discussing midfield formations and zonal marking.

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League table courtesy of statto.com: the place to go for football stats & odds comparison – English & Scottish stats from 1871 plus European and international

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