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13 May 2011 ~

Even though tomorrow's FA Cup final is a major event in the history of Manchester City and Stoke, the day's media attention will almost certainly be focused on Manchester Utd's record 19th League title. It's a shame that the FA's showpiece occasion has been made to look like an afterthought. One of the selling points of England's World Cup bid was football's long tradition in this country but at times it can seem as if the FA don't really know what they're doing. Imagine that.

Badge of the week ~ FC Sevastopol, Ukraine
The older people of Sevastopol love it when some young innocent asks them what the local team's crest means. Because then your average old Ukrainian eases back in their bakovar (a traditional Russian chair with a strong backward lean to it, popular because it meant no one in the room had to make eye contact during conversation) and embarks on the time-honoured tale with closed eyes and a peaceful smile playing on the chops. In olden days Ukraine there used to be a place in every village and town where people came to hear important news. Important news in the pre-Sky, Fox and Channel 5 days was classified as Declaration of War, Cessation of War, Emperor news or New Political Philosophy Initiated by Bed-ridden Intellectual.

Everyone would gather round the bell and hear the news read and mimed to them by the town petrishka (a man with suspiciously small hands). Later, around the 1820s, a bulletin on the weather was introduced and, finally, a dual-gender team of news-shouters was introduced for reasons that have been lost in time. Another piece of big news was the creation of a new football team, and Sevastopol commemorated the first broadcasting of this news in their crest. On slow news days, the location doubled as a place for public executions and bear-fighting (which of course you can still see on Sky, Fox and Channel 5). Cameron Carter

The insulting airborne message has become a mainstay of Lancashire football rivalry, with Blackpool fans the latest to honour the tradition. Can't help feeling that it will rebound on them soon, though.

from Ross Adams
"As anyone who has seen him play recently will know, David Luiz has a flair for comedy. I'm not sure what that hairstyle is called but I'd settle for 'annoying'."

Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Walsall home, 2003-04
When Paul Merson was unveiled as the highest profile signing in Walsall's history, this was the shirt the world's media clamoured to photograph him wearing. It's difficult to overstate the sense of giddy unreality that gripped Saddlers fans during the summer of 2003. I bunked off work and set up camp in the snooker club over the road where I watched Sky Sports News' live coverage (live coverage!) of the press conference, oblivious to the jeers of the Wolves fans playing the fruit machine. Finally I understood what the moon landing had meant to my parents' generation.

Merson's first mistake was to score two spectacular goals in a 4-1 opening day humiliation of plucky neighbours West Brom, a result that meant we briefly topped the table. It couldn't get any better than that, and it didn't. Halfway through the season Merson disappeared to rehab in Arizona. Soon after returning he was inexplicably handed the manager's job and Walsall were relegated by a single goal. We haven't played in the Championship since.

The Saddlers have experimented with various combinations of red, white and black in recent years and this is probably one of the better efforts (Merson clearly appreciated the slimming effect of the white side panels). Manufacturers Xara were a step up from previous kit supplier Beaver, for obvious reasons, and the support of local brewers Banks's continues to this day, albeit in the sponsorship of the stadium rather than the shirt. It was customary at this time for the man of the match to receive 24 cans of the sponsor's mild. With hindsight, perhaps that wasn’t such a good idea. Tom Lines

from Mike Hall
"There was always something about Mike Riley's physique I found a little peculiar. As usual, it's Wikipedia to the rescue."

It's a pity the US aren't allowed to enter the Eurovision song contest because this is a guaranteed winner."

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Jim Gannon & Alun Armstrong, Stockport County Panini Football League 96
After 106 years' continuous membership, Stockport dropped out of the Football League at the end of 2010-11. It was only three years ago that they were promoted from League Two under manager Jim Gannon, who was also a member of probably their best-ever side. Gannon, in the news earlier this year, was a central defender in the team managed by David Jones that finished runners-up in Division Two (now League One) in 1996-97. His team-mates included midfielder Chris Marsden, later signed by Jones for Southampton, and doughty forwards Andy Mutch and Brett Angell.

Stockport were to spend five years at the second level and finished eighth in their first year up. 22-year-old striker Alun Armstrong scored 12 goals in 29 games that season before moving on to Middlesbrough in February 1998. But his career stalled there and after a move to Ipswich failed to pay off he ended up back in the lower divisions with Darlington. Wikipedia claims "in the game FIFA 99 he was depicted as being black" but that has been queried.

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