Webwatch

  Ian Plenderleith is intrigued by a tale of orchard murder in the Scottish Borders and other football badges in this month’s internet review, but is a touch less impressed by academic obsessions

Just when you’re ready to give up and log off for good to go and do something worthwhile with your life, like recycling old cereal boxes for homeless hamsters, along comes a site that makes you remember why the internet has all been worthwhile. Press ‘Forward’ to July’s site of the month, Footballcrests.com.

Some football sites want to tell you what you really need to know – but this month Ian Plenderleith celebrates those which go in the opposite direction and champion the glorious irrelevance of it all

 “Fascinating but spectacularly pointless” is a label that can be applied to many things in football – mascots, Alan Parry, the Rumbelows Sprint Challenge, Danny Wal­lace’s runs down the wing. To celebrate the game’s abund­ant tapestry of interesting but superfluous facts, people and memorabilia, On The Web this month unscientifically nom­inates a list (what could be more fascinating but pointless than a list?) of the top four Great But Useless websites.

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.

The most annoying fan in Brazil and quite possibly the world meets the women of Iran and Scotland star Lord Bron in Ian Plenderleith's latest surfing review

There are always new and arguably useless things to learn about football. Once you’ve been to Futebol, a website founded by writer Alex Bellos to promote his acclaimed book about Brazilian football, you’ll discover that no one in Brazil has any idea how many professional clubs there are in the country because new ones open and close every week. One sports paper lists almost 800 in its encyclopaedia, while another claims that “only” around 300 are actually operational.

Looking to build a club up from nothing? Everything you need – and quite a lot you don't – can be found online according to Ian Plenderleith, from players to speakers for the end-of-season awards

You have won the lottery and have millions to spend. Your family and your investment analyst are all pleading desperately with you to think of their long-term security. The prob­lem is, you always wanted to sit in the directors’ box of your own football team, and so with a manic gleam of distant glory in your eye, you buy your local struggling Ryman League Div­ision Two outfit and announce at a press con­ference, “Champions League within the next ten years”. But where do you start to build a team of champions? The internet, of course!

Ian Plenderleith goes looking for the best in English-language coverage of European football on the web and shares the anguish of the Portuguese public over the latest career move for Phil Collins

Although most of the major web­sites now pay lip service to the burgeoning interest in European football with scores from, and columnists in, a variety of foreign countries, there are a number of English-language on­line locations that devote themselves to one country alone. Two of the best cover the Iber­ian peninsula.

Ian Plenderleith goes looking for football collectibles and comes back without any bargains, but with an insight into a weird world where Eva Perón rubs virtual shoulders with middle-aged Surrey saddos

At DC United’s final home game of the season you could have your match ticket punched in exchange for a Bobble Doll of Un­ited and US defender Eddie Pope. Eddie is modelling the black kit of his club side, who that evening finished bottom of the US professional league, and has a star-spangled banner draped around his neck. He is also, according to the box, “genuine” (meaning the doll is eith­er honest, or is the actual Eddie Pope), “hand crafted and hand painted”, and his oversized head jerks around on a spring like he’s having some sort of a seizure. What’s more, he’s col­lectible.

Ian Plenderleith delves into the highs and lows of Welsh football online, from Simon Davies's enthusiastic views on Qatar to Porthmadog's inexplicable rejection of after-match hospitality

The Welsh national side’s excellent start to the Euro 2004 qualifying campaign seems as good a reason as any to have a look at that nation’s web presence, starting with the quite tasty Dragon Soccer – Welsh International Football Online. It could also claim to be the Website Least Read By Welsh Internationals, judging by the answers given by leading play­ers on the site’s question and answer pages, which al­ways start with the touchingly hope­ful: “Have you ever visited the Dragon Soccer website?” The kindest answer is Andy Mel­ville’s “Not yet”.

With several new and reformed clubs in the English and Scottish Leagues, Ian Plenderleith finds their sites offering goat sacrifices, laughable claims of sportsmanship and matrimony on the cheap

Scottish League newcomer FC Gretna’s web presence is minimal, but any parsimonious, football-minded elopers may be excited by the chance of holding their wedding reception in the club’s salubrious bar for free. “Make your Wedding Day both special and different,” the club’s official site promises. “We also offer the use of our facilities to pre­pare your own food.” It is too modest to men­tion the incentive of a free glance out the win­dow at Gretna v Albion Rovers while doing the conga.

Despite its excellent content, onefootball.com has gone the way of so many other optimistic projects. Yet again the figures did not add up, as Ian Plenderleith explains

The difficulties facing any company intent on running a quality football website for pro­fit were brought home by the liquidation of onefootball.com in July, which, despite its popularity and plaudits, collapsed while re­portedly losing around £40,000 a month.

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