Unofficial sites and mini kits

Jamie Rainbow points us in the direction of Hartlepool and Southend unofficial sites, bemoans the lack of an FA website and reveals a fan's obsession with mini kits

Manchester United are not the only side who can lay claim to a worldwide support. Hartlepool may not have plans to open a megastore in Singapore, but they do have a couple of Swedish-based fans who have set up a website in honour of the club. And, once the initial language difficulties have been overcome, very good it is too. You’ll find an interesting history of the town with a refreshingly honest appraisal of the football team. “Hartlepool has an appallingly bad football team which consistently struggles towards the bottom of the English football league,” admits the site. There are a few historical snippets along with a comprehensive news section featuring daily updates on all the club-related gossip.

This is more than can be said for the official FA site, which, alas, nine months since I last visited it, still carries the message “website under construction” (certainly bodes well for the eventual reconstruction of Wembley). To be fair to the FA, they have had a lot on their plate in recent months, what with all the comings and goings at Lancaster Gate.

They have also got a World Cup to win and clearly most of their energies are devoted to this end with the creation of a site to promote the 2006 bid. Here you’ll find news of Tony Blair launching England’s welcome to 2,500 schoolchildren from 203 countries to the 2006 World Cup. Well, if that doesn’t sway those floating FIFA voters …

Apparently, the cornerstones of England’s bid are “professionalism and passion”. Honest. In the light of the Kelly-Wiseman fiasco, we can safely ignore the former, while for the latter, one wonders how much passion can be generated by the mass corporate freebie market so visible during Euro 96. The site doesn’t mention Manchester United’s FA Cup exemption, nor the slavish acquiescence to FIFA over the new world club compet­ition – omissions which, in the light of recent events, seem odd. Then again, for an organisation re­nowned for its apathy, perhaps not.

From the supine to the ridiculous and a Dutch site dedicated to the phenomenon of mini kits. As the name suggests, these are mini versions of football kits and are available throughout Europe. The individual responsible for the site claims to possess a world record 158 of them and it is certainly hard to imagine anyone else admitting to a greater number.

The author’s mini obsession takes him quite frequently to England, where, he admits, “you can almost feel football”. And where “all grounds have a fanshop, where people of all ages express their love for a team” – a novel description of the megastore experience. Still, this seems a harmless pursuit and if mini kits are your thing, then this is the place for you.

Finally, there is plenty of up-to-date news on the unofficial Southend site. All the transfer comings and goings are here, including the imminent signing of Neil Tolson from York. According to the site, Tolson has “played at the highest level with Oldham”, a comment which I assume refers to the height above sea level of Boundary Park rather than the quality of the football on offer. Tolson is being attracted to Roots Hall by the prospect of working with his former boss Alan Little, a fact which has not gone unnoticed by a disgruntled York fan visiting the site. Describing Little as “a joker they call a manager” the correspondent expresses the hope that Little does more for Southend than he achieved for his former club. Given that he was the person chiefly responsible for York being relegated, this shouldn’t prove too difficult.

From WSC 150 August 1999. What was happening this month