Goalkeeping fans, budding writers and followers of non-league football in Sussex all have their concerns addressed in Ian Plenderleith's website round-up
The cyber-slimming of the past few years has seen the crash of numerous financially and conceptually flimsy football internet ventures, but lately some interesting indepen- dent websites have emerged from the digital carnage. While highly financed schemes have been bounced into the Deleted Items box, a trend for small-scale, hobbyist homepages has slowly returned and yielded a few pleasant surprises.
One of those is the well-written, highly entertaining Goalkeepers Are Different site, devoted to shot-stoppers and their quirks. Here you’ll discover that pre-First World War legend Leigh Richmond Roose, for example, was a qualified doctor of bacteriology rich enough to once hire his own train to reach an away game on time. Or that Ted Ditchburn was proclaimed a revolutionary in the late 1940s for rolling the ball out instead of punting it. The keeper claimed he never intended to invent the patient build-up, but that he was just crap at kicking.
You can find out too about Henry Hardy – not the subject of an Appalachian folk song, but the only Stockport County player ever to play for England – or about Wolves keeper Mike Stowell, who enjoyed the honour of all six races at Wolverhampton racetrack being named after him one day in July 1999. Or learn that Arsenal goalies never wear a new shirt unless it has been washed, a practice dating back to the 1927 FA Cup final after Dan Lewis blamed the goal that led to defeat on his “slippery new jersey”. One for Sir Alex to keep in reserve.
The Quirky Injuries section also delivers some gems. Mart Poom once injured his genitals in a charity match against an Iron Maiden XI (unfortunately, we don’t find out how), while Charlton’s 1934 keeper Alex Wright reportedly died of a broken neck after diving from a life raft into shallow water as he was showing off saves he’d made the previous day (happens all too often). In Getting Personal you’ll find out which goalies were nicknamed after Teletubbies and the story behind Scotland’s “Holy Goalie”, while I Fought The Law details former Chelsea keeper Peter Borota’s career as a con-artist, passing off stolen paintings as his own.
Squarefootball.net is host to “hundreds of football articles not published elsewhere”, a healthy claim given the number of websites that succumb to cutting, pasting and lazy linking rather than coming up with their own content. The site has a problem with laboursome download times, despite a low-graphics, pictorial-free format, but keeps its features and articles to perfect internet length. That is, they are short and to the point.
Its football analysis is not always original (“Is there too much football on television?” asks one article. Will David Murray be the next Pope?), but the writing is for the most part both accessible and considered. Added to that is regular columnist Harry Flatcap, a failed football boss who relates his stay at a refuge for out of work managers. Here sit sad, sacked figures like Terry Fenwick, “nodding and blinking”, and Brian Clough, who chastises the paperboy delivering his Morning Star for having a shaggy haircut.
Squarefootball.net is looking for new writers, although it can’t afford to pay them yet. Editor Antony Melvin says that it does not want to repeat the mistakes of other failed football sites, which featured too little topical content and were too costly to run. With better technology and a wider range of contributors it definitely has the potential to blossom into a better, more entertaining web address.
That description could already apply to Nomad Online, the site “connecting the world of Sussex non-league soccer”. Editor “The Nomad” has been covering the area for years in his column in Eastbourne Borough’s match programme, and Nomad Online not only features an archive of his past travels and travails, but a number of other columnists who maintain the right balance between enthusiasm and criticism as they endure, for example, Withdean jacking up gate prices for the visit of AFC Wimbledon. Looking beyond England’s south coast, they even have a guest columnist writing about football in the Philippines, perhaps the international equivalent of the Sussex County Football League.
There’s an impressive review of match programmes across the region while, as ever, the Grounds Guide proves irresistible. Particularly astonishing is the new stand at Pease Pottage Village FC, which looks like a glorified bus stop, fronted by a metal crush barrier, presumably to keep the tumultuous hordes from spilling on to the playing surface. Also noteworthy are the Albanian-style nuclear bunkers doubling up as subs’ benches at Uckfield Town’s incongruously named Victoria Pleasure Grounds.
Due to illness, the site has suffered a mid-season hiatus, but at the time of writing was due an imminent return and update. Businesses fold and die, but the keen amateurs who constituted the original life-blood of the internet keep coming back for more.
From WSC 195 May 2003. What was happening this month