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

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