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23 March 2012 ~

Even if their team loses an important game over the next couple of days, many Premier League players and managers will feel like winners this week. This week's Budget included a cut in the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, which will save six-figure sums for many high earners. And what better place to spend that extra cash than at at the Real Madrid Holiday Resort soon to be built in the Emirates.

Badge of the week ~ Al-Shorta SC Damascus, Syria
Some stories behind club crests are more obscure than others. In 12th-century Syria, there lived in the mountains surrounding Damascus a creature that was, according to those few who had encountered it, half eagle, half hotelier. When unwary travellers through the mountains made ready for sleep after a day of clambering the winding, sun-baked paths, they would suddenly become aware of a shadow cast over them and the shuddering of monstrous wings.

On looking up, they would behold the creature at the centre of Al-Shorta's crest, a sort of giant bird of prey wearing an unseasonal muffler. The unholy, the demonic air surrounding this beast was tempered by the fact that it held precariously in its wing-tips a Visitors' Book which it seemed eager to have signed.

The only survivors who told this tale had all written something positive in the book, along the lines of "lovely mountains, great views, great hospitality, will definitely come back". Those who refused to write in the book or wrote something non-committal clearly never lived to report it. Al-Shorta adopted this motif to present themselves as strong, predatory and free, yet with a real-world awareness of encouraging return customers. Cameron Carter

from Neil Bowes
"References to The Verve occasionally crop up in Wigan match reports but this must be the most tenuous one yet."

In view of his headline-making antics in Dubai, it's surprising that there are no Sir Dave Richards Corinthian figures, including one of him tumbling into a water feature. However, there is what appears to be a likeness of Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, given away as an unnamed extra with the Charity Shield. Or else it's a streamlined Gordon Brown.

Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

1860 Munich home, 1999-2000
The new millennium seemed to herald a return to prominence for 1860 Munich, although it did coincide with the disappearance of the Munich Löwenbräu brewery as shirt sponsors. The Lions' glory days in the 1960s had been overshadowed by decades of underachievement, culminating in the withdrawal of the licence to play professional football and a return to the Bavarian league. However, after successive promotions in the 1990s, the club had established itself in the top flight once again, despite sporting a selection of sometimes eye-watering blue and white geometric patterned kits.

In 1999-2000 they went back to basics with much more traditional blue shirt in the same shade as the Bavarian flag and did the double over their despised rivals from "FC Hollywood" for the very first time, winning both games against Bayern Munich at the shared Olympic Stadium and finishing the season in fourth place to guarantee a spot in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League.

The club were unable to build on this achievement, slipping further down the table each year until relegation in 2004, accompanied by the arrest of president Karl-Heinz Wildmoser over alleged corruption in the construction of the Allianz Arena, which is used by both Munich clubs. The running costs of the new stadium have become an almost insurmountable burden. The arena is half-empty for most games as a section of supporters stay away, especially after 1860 sold their share of the stadium to Bayern in 2007 to stave off bankruptcy. Financial instability is reflected in inconsistency on the field, with an ever-changing team marooned in mid-table at the second level and looking ever more unlikely to return to the heights reached in 2000. John Van Laer

from Eoghan Kenny
"Apparently the new Sligo Rovers manager Ian Baraclough is 4ft 1in tall and is a proud supporter of and fundraiser for South American revolutionaries."

More budget cuts at Newcastle United.









from Keith Upton
"I would imagine that Southport football ground usually gives off a mixture of pungent fast food whiffs so 'woody with aquatic notes' can only be an improvement."

This week in history ~ Division One, March 23, 1991










Defending champions Liverpool, managed by Kenny Dalglish, returned to the top with John Barnes and Steve Nicol both scoring twice in a demolition of Derby, while Jan Molby got one of his eight penalties. Molby scored from the spot in the next match, but his side lost 3-1 at home to QPR. It was the start of a three-game winless run that allowed rivals Arsenal to open up an unassailable lead; they took the title by seven points. Crystal Palace finished in their highest ever league position in third place.

Arsenal's Alan Smith was the division's top scorer with 23 goals, two ahead of Lee Chapman of Leeds. Skipper Tony Adams missed eight games after being jailed for drink-driving but his defensive colleagues Steve Bould, Nigel Winterburn and Lee Dixon were ever-present along with goalkeeper David Seaman.

George Graham's team lost only one league match, 2-1 at Chelsea in February, though they were thrashed 6-2 at home by Man Utd in the Rumbelows (League) Cup. A mass brawl in a league match between the two sides at Old Trafford in October led to Arsenal having two points deducted, United one.

The defeat by Liverpool was part of a then club record 20 games without a win for Derby, who finished bottom by ten points. (Their most recent appearance at the top level, in 2007-08, involved a winless run of 32 games.) Derby regulars included 41-year-old Peter Shilton in goal plus centre-back Mark Wright and striker Dean Saunders, both of whom moved to Liverpool in the summer. Sunderland took the other relegation place in a division that was being increased to 22 clubs (it went back to 20 in 1995-96).

Spurs beat Forest 2-1 in the FA Cup final despite the early loss of Paul Gascoigne who injured himself in making a reckless challenge and was out of action for a year. Ron Atkinson's Sheffield Wednesday beat Man Utd in the Rumbelows Cup final; they also won promotion from Division Two after one season away.

Among the scorers this week was the 20-year-old Alan Shearer who got Southampton's first in their win at Chelsea. Steve Bruce scored twice for Manchester United against Luton and finished alongside Brian McClair as their joint top marksman on 13 goals, seven of them penalties.

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