A fantasy football site which rewards ineptitude leads off Ian Plenderleith's guide to low quality web-browsing. And ideas don't get much worse than on a site offering pet coats for sale in club colours

There are few football fans who haven’t attempted to manage fantasy teams at some point over the past ten years, because we all harbour an illusion that we could do a better job than the men who are paid millions just to mostly mess up. Then we discover that the players we picked did not perform to expectations. This has not led to a noticeable rise in understanding of the trials and setbacks suffered by those in charge of a real team, but at least most of us now realise, after finishing in position 124,971 of whichever league we entered, that we are just as clueless as the men we routinely scorn and heckle from the safety of the stands.

For all of us losers out there, there is now a website that caters to our tendency to pick out the worst players. Shocker Soccer is a fantasy game where you pick the 11 (or seven in the recent mini Euro 2004 version) biggest legirons you can think of, and win points according to how badly they play. What could be simpler? While it may be hard to predict which players will perform well, most of us agree we wouldn’t want Emile Heskey leading our front line any more than we’d call for Rab Douglas to guard the goal.

Your players will win points if they pick up red or yellow cards, score own goals, are substituted, concede goals or, if they play up front, fail to score. Points are lost if your selections confound the critics by performing well, and you have to spend a minimum amount on your players (so that you don’t pack your side with Evertonians). My tactic next season will be to follow whatever Kevin Keegan does. And how­ever well you do, it’s surely more fun willing players you don’t like to play badly and make mistakes than it is to cheer some striker play­ing for a team you hate to score another goal. There are even non-cash prizes on offer.

Following on from that, the logical theme for this month’s column would be to feature websites about the worst players and teams of all time. I thought there would be dozens, but apparently not, so if some eager netsmith with a few hundred hours to spare is looking to create a site with a difference, there’s a niche waiting to be filled. In the meantime, I’ll stick with the theme “worst”.

The worst ever football merchandising idea can be found at Soccer Pets, where you can buy a waterproof, fleece-lined coat in the team colours of your choice to keep your dog, cat, horse and even your pig warm in winter. The photo gallery of customers’ pets wearing their wares is possibly the saddest thing I’ve ever seen on the web.

The worst example of a footballer’s imagination working ten times faster than his brain is at Aki Riihilahti’s home page, where we haven’t been for a while, but which is always worth a return visit. He sometimes seems more influenced by crystal meth than Crystal Palace these days, ranting at critics like a gibbering late-night bum. “You are just the bloody vegetarian dish in a kebab shop,” he told “journalists and politicians” this past season.

Aki has also appealed to readers for help by sending in ideas for his new gig with a Finnish fitness magazine, so perhaps his inspirational well has dried up. After all, as he points out in one of his columns: “Future is uncertain, ego is been shaken like a Polaroid picture.”

The worst example of how to run a York­shire football club that once played in the Premier League, part 3: Bradford City not only splashed out ridiculous wages to try to hold on to top-flight status, they later employed Bryan Robson as manager in a seemingly wilful attempt to follow county neighbours Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday down the league.

The consequence was the threatened end of the club’s existence (still in the balance at the time of writing) and the Save Bradford City website was aiming to raise £250,000 by the end of June to rescue the club. One method includes flog­ging team merchandise on Ebay, with the most successful having been the sale for £1,000 of a set of “Bradford City shirt and shorts worn by Stuart McCall”.

I know it’s for a good cause and everything, but some poor bastard just got the worst bargain on the internet.

From WSC 210 August 2004. What was happening this month

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