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27 May 2011 ~

We were going reflect on tomorrow night's Champions League final at Wembley but we can't add anything to what's already been said:

"Barcelona can feel less like a football club and more a way of life" Owen Slot, Times

"This great 21st century Barcelona now revolve on a Xavi axis, dance to a Xavi beat, make music to a Xavi baton" Henry Winter, Daily Telegraph

"'Little Pea' is the nickname of Javier Hernandez and he has certainly popped to the top with Manchester United" Neil Custis, Sun

"It seems odd that one of the best teams ever to grace the planet and a player synonymous with their style, whose majesty is shaped by his ability to mesmerise, should be reduced to contemplating a game of catch-up. Yet an acceptance of that reality is not lost on Xavi" Paul Joyce, Daily Express

Badge of the week ~ Leon de Huanuco, Peru
Leon de Huanuco have cleverly combined the themes of strength and valour (the lion) with package tour hedonism (the limbo bar) in creating the definitive pictorial representation of their club. What the designers are saying here is that an aerobic leisure outlet is an absolute must for those at the top of life's food chain to relieve the stress of being strong and valorous during office hours. This is why a large number of chubby gentlemen in suits end up performing the Macarena in an Oxford Street club, having missed all six trains home to Didcot after what had begun five hours earlier as a quiet drink after work.

Work Hard, Play Hard is the motto here and indeed, for the purposes of intimidation, there are few things more unsettling than being in the presence of a very powerful person who is showing the minions just how naturally they can join in the fun. How Low Can You Go would have been the motto as it's a bit more modern and vibrant but unfortunately this is being used already by Plymouth Argyle as their mission statement. Cameron Carter

from Elliott Dixon
"Walking past my local William Hill I was shocked to see life-size pictures of Robbie Savage in his swimming trunks promoting something or other. Incredibly he appears to be more annoying since his retirement than when he was playing. But he won an award for his radio work a couple of weeks back, so perhaps it's just me? (No, you're right, it's him.)"

Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Sheffield Wednesday away, 1992-93
Chris Waddle's wing wizardry inspired Sheffield Wednesday to a remarkable, yet ultimately fruitless, campaign in this immensely popular hornet-like strip from Umbro. Trevor Francis's ridiculously shrewd £1 million signing from Marseille picked up the Football Writers' Player of the Year award as the Owls reached both domestic cup finals, only to be beaten twice by a dour Arsenal side.

In this kit, defender-turned-striker-sensation Paul Warhurst volleyed in a goal of the month contender at Stamford Bridge, David Hirst scored a 35-yard pile driver at The Dell and Wednesday's victory at Manchester City gave them a seventh successive league win – then a record for a fledgling Premier League. The standout game, however, was what is still fondly recalled by Wednesdayites simply as "the Blackburn game": a four-goals-in-16-minutes demolition of Rovers at Ewood Park in the League Cup semi-final first leg, made all the more famous for a fan wildly celebrating on the terraces with both his crutches aloft.

The following season, Wednesday switched to Puma, who jumped on the bandwagon for black away strips, and had to witness Chelsea winning an FA Cup fourth round replay at Hillsborough wearing the exact same yellow-and-black striped kit. Six years later Wednesday began a decade of alarming freefall that could have at least been aesthetically tempered by a reissue of this strip. Sadly, the club have often opted for the garish, going as far as offering fans the choice of a pink away kit for next season. After furious protests from Owls fans, the option was pulled within days. Richard Salguero

from Keith Upton
"The Danbury mint produces all manner of football-related tat, er, memorabilia. But it seems odd that their Spurs collection should be the basis for a national newspaper ad campaign. Unless they're having difficulty shifting them – in which case Alan Sugar should get his keen young hucksters on the case."

from Andy Myall
"Wikipedia reckons Watford legend Craig Ramage has gone to extreme lengths to demonstrate his love of Peter Gabriel."

from Barney Ronay
"Gary Lineker on Match of the Day last weekend quite jarringly blurted out 'Spend some money Arsène' into the camera after an interview with Wenger. It reminded me of this column in the Daily Mail by Lineker last year. Particularly these bits:

There is one man, though, who has stood out from the excessive transfer fees and the buy today, pay tomorrow culture that has tarnished the game... Wenger can bury the myth that the only way to be champions is to have the biggest wallet. The Arsenal manager has come under huge pressure from fans to get the chequebook out. The work he has done with his young side might not have won him silverware in the past few years but the true rewards might be about to begin. With United gripped by debt and Chelsea an ageing side, why shouldn't Arsenal be the team of the decade?

It's almost as though he hadn't actually written these words himself."

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Wimbledon Panini Football 87
Wimbledon's return to the Football League comes 25 years after their last promotion as a League club, when they moved up from Division Two in 1985-86. They clinched promotion with two games to spare thanks to a 1-0 win at Huddersfield; the goalscorer Lawrie Sanchez was to get the winner in the FA Cup final two years later.

A much-improved defence was crucial to their success with only 37 goals conceded including 18 clean sheets. (In the preceding two seasons they had let in 75 and 76, the latter while being promoted from Division Three.) Most of the team had been with the club on its rise through the divisions. Left-back Nigel Winterburn, who was voted the club's Player of the Season, had joined on a free from Oxford United three years earlier and went on to win League titles with Arsenal; goalkeeper Dave Beasant, signed from non-League Edgware Town, made the first penalty save in a Wembley FA Cup final and was in England's 1990 World Cup squad.

The leading lights of what became known as the "Crazy Gang" played little or no role in the promotion. John Fashanu scored four goals in nine games after signing from Millwall in March while 19-year-old winger Dennis Wise made only five appearances. Vinnie Jones, meanwhile, was still in non-League with Wealdstone.

The TV cameras rarely visited Plough Lane during the club's rise but they made their own videos occasionally, such as this recording of a 4-3 win over Millwall from 1983.

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