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8 April 2011 ~

Anyone who though their chances of playing League football had gone may be in for a nice surprise. If the FA are to be consistent, as they surely will be, in banning players for swearing in the wake of the Wayne Rooney incident, then clubs are going to need squads of hundreds, possibly thousands, every season. Go easy on the ice cream over the summer and you could be lining up at Old Trafford in August.

Badge of the week ~ Brujas FC, Costa Rica
This one's a bit like a Rorschach test. Some people perceive here an unseen figure struggling to stuff a duvet under a low-hanging light source. Others see the head of a straight-horned ibex looming up at one out of the darkness, causing one to rear back in terror. And then causing one to be a little embarrassed by rearing back in terror owing to the low numbers of recorded fatalities as a direct result of roadside ibex attacks. Those with even a passing knowledge of the Spanish language, however, will see the designer's intention immediately.

Bruja is the Spanish for witch and this design is based on the story of an old witch who lived on the site of the club's ground and was forcibly ejected by the building contractors. The witch was so surprised by her eviction (she'd long since stopped opening her mail as she'd been depressed: in and out of treatment with her osteoarthritis, then there's the sanity-eroding repetition of local radio playlists, also the difficulty of sourcing newts). Anyway, she wasn't opening her mail and consequently was surprised by the knock at the door by the men with the diggers and couldn't get a very good spell off in time. In the event, as she was bundled in a confused state into a taxi funded by social services, she placed a curse on all who used the pitch that they would never play in the Europa League. The club hastily accepted this curse in place of financial compensation to the witch in an out-of-court settlement. Cameron Carter

Watch out for retrograde Mercury. The Evening Standard's Dan Jones begins his account of Spurs' defeat in Madrid on an astronomical theme to which he bravely returns several times.

Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Carlisle United away, 1995-97
As the 1995-96 season dawned, Michael Knighton's relationship with the fans of Carlisle United was still on an upward curve. Not only had the team just won promotion from the basement for the first time since the early 1980s, but his innovative development of the commercial side of the club was reaping financial reward and positive publicity.

As part of this commercial revolution, Knighton brought production of the kit in-house, through the newly created Red Fox brand. This gave greater artistic freedom, enabling the production of this memorably awful away kit, designed to make full use of sponsor Eddie Stobart's corporate colour scheme.

On the pitch, the team started poorly, struggling to score and finding that any lapse of concentration was brutally punished. Manager Mick Wadsworth jumped ship for Norwich in January and, despite Mervyn Day's best efforts, the team were relegated five days after the end of the regular season, when York defeated Brighton in a rearranged fixture.

But 1996-97 saw a big upswing in fortunes as promising youngsters like Matt Jansen and Rory Delap broke into the first team to support the established professionals such as Dean Walling, Steve Hayward and Owen Archdeacon. This team achieved a promotion and Wembley final double, and the Stobart stripes were worn for the penalty shoot-out victory over Colchester in the Auto Windscreens Shield final, thus ensuring that this cult change strip is warmly remembered among United fans despite its improbable blend of colours. Rob Lees

In a week of needless red cards, this one is surely the most ridiculous.

from Ged Cassell
"I'm afraid Jack Street from Stockport has missed the point. The only reason we Manchester City supporters like to tease United fans about not being from Manchester is because it winds them up so much. If they had any sense they'd make the perfectly reasonable point that they can support any team they like and they don't need to justify their choice to City fans or to anyone else.

I am now living in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire but was born in Reddish, between Manchester and, er, Stockport, but actually north of the Mersey and therefore officially in Lancashire, not Cheshire, at least up until the local government reorganisation of 1974."

from Luke Upton
"According to Wikipedia, Earl Barrett seems to have made a poor impression on at least one supporter of a former club."

from Matt Braddock
"Check this link – it appears David Beckham has changed his job title."

This week in history ~ Division One, April 8, 2000


Charlton paid for 5,000 fans to travel to Forest for what would have been a title celebration had they won and Man City lost. The Championship was wrapped up two weeks later, although they failed to win any of their last seven games. Charlton's goal at Forest was scored by Andy Hunt who was the division's top scorer with 24, one ahead of Man City's Shaun Goater. Hunt's team-mates included Scott Parker and the current Charlton boss Chris Powell.

City's end-of-season form was the reverse of Charlton's, with seven wins in their last nine games meaning they finished only two points behind the champions. Goater's strike partner Paul Dickov scored two of their four against Crewe, though he only managed another three goals in 34 games. City sacked their manager, Joe Royle, after being relegated the following season, with directors complaining about a "drinking culture" at the club.

This was the only season in management to date for David Platt whose Nottingham Forest side finished 14th having used 38 players. Platt himself made three appearances while 36-year-old Ian Wright scored five goals in ten games while on loan from West Ham.

Ipswich and Barnsley contested the play-off final after knocking out Bolton and Birmingham respectively in the semis. It was the fourth successive season in the play-offs for George Burley's side, with Dutch striker Martijn Reuser sealing a 4-2 win in the final minute. Ipswich finished fifth in the Premier League in 2000-01 before dropping back to the second level. Barnsley sacked their manager Dave Bassett during a poor run of form midway through the following season.

With Swindon and Port Vale already down, the third relegation place was taken on the last day by Walsall who lost at Ipswich, while rivals West Brom beat Charlton 2-0. Richard Sneekes and Bob Taylor, who scored for Albion in the draw at Barnsley, also got the decisive goals in the final fixture.

Players making their League debuts this season included Shaun Wright-Phillips (Man City), Kevin Nolan (Bolton), Phil Jagielka (Sheffield Utd), Ashley Cole (Crystal Palace, on loan from Arsenal) and David Healy (Port Vale, on loan from Man Utd).

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