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13 April 2012 ~

Roberto Mancini has been accused of copying Sir Alex Ferguson's notorious "mind games" recently, to the extent of denying he is doing it. Perhaps he has been lured into this by Sir Alex, who now has Mancini exactly where he wants him. Or at least that's what Mancini wants Sir Alex to think. Or is that what Sir Alex has planned all along?

Badge of the week ~ Enugu Rangers, Nigeria
A very neat badge, the story behind which tells of a rare non-human serial killer, based in Nigeria. Among the leopards of that country’s southern plateau was one who left this sinister calling card on the corpses of its gazelle kills. At the scene would be found the victim’s carcass, a flurry of paw-prints and the provocative card. It was only when some other leopards explained to the killer leopard, in growly talk, that it was not in fact immoral or illegal for a leopard to kill a gazelle, that the cards ceased to appear.

There was, the killer was told, no particular case to answer. It seems that the leopard enjoyed killing gazelles so much he simply assumed it was wrong. This individual is commemorated in Enugu Rangers’ badge as he represents the killer instinct, allied to a keen sense of the theatrical and a creepy insistence on orderliness.Co-incidentally, this is the exact combination of traits displayed by the highly successful proctologists and psychotherapists who made up 90 per cent of the murderers in Columbo. Cameron Carter

Some of those enormous wages Michael Duberry received from Leeds during the Ridsdale era seem to have been invested well.

Ryan Mendes da Graça is making a major impact in North Lincolnshire, according to Wikipedia.




Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Australia 1996-98

Despite the evidence of the last World Cup, Australia have occasionally come up with surprisingly classy kits based on an unpromising palette. The best, such as for the 2006 World Cup, have taken the gold in "green and gold" seriously. But the late 1990s Adidas effort with an untidy hint at three stripes across one arm came in the middle of a very yellow period. Plastic numbers in a crass 3D font did not help. But the ugliness of the design lives in the memory less than the most notorious game played in this shirt (unusually teamed with black shorts), the devastating 2-2 play-off draw with Iran at the MCG that ended Australia’s 1998 World Cup qualification hopes.

After drawing the first leg 1-1, the Socceroos under Terry Venables scored twice in Melbourne in front of an 88,000 crowd – YouTube helpfully reminds us that TV news reports said that put them "two-love up". But then a deranged man named Peter Hore ran onto the field and began cutting up one of the goal nets. (It was one of the first in a long list of interventions in public events by Hore, including re-enacting the auto-asphyxiation death of the INXS singer Michael Hutchence at his funeral, and riding a tricycle onto the field of a rugby league match in 2006, dressed as Ned Kelly and carrying a cage full of cats.)  The interruption seemed to unsettle Australia and they succumbed to two late Iran goals. TV commentators wept openly. But at least it was the last we saw of the shirt. Mike Ticher

from Ian Chadwick
"Jermaine Pennant's latest toy contains all manner of gadgets. You just know he's going to inadvertently trigger the ejector seat one day while manoeuvring out of the players' car park."

Expert forecasting from Mark Bright. If he passes on a tip for the Grand National, don't listen to him.










from Ed Upright
"Difficult to say if this Wall Street Journal article is a parody of certain American attitudes towards football or an endorsement."

This week in history ~ Division Two, April 13, 2002













Manchester City had clinched promotion with a 5-1 win over Barnsley the previous week. Kevin Keegan's side didn't get into the top two until mid-December but a run of 16 wins in their last 20 games secured an immediate return after relegation in 2000-01. Shaun Goater, who got their second goal at Gillingham, was the division's top scorer with 28, six ahead of Palace's Clinton Morrison.

Other notable City players included Eyal Berkovic, Darren Huckerby, Shaun Wright-Phillips and 40-year-old Stuart Pearce, who took up a coaching post with the club at the end of the season and became manager three years later. 

Top in March, Wolves won only two of their final nine games and finished three points behind West Brom. The latter's run-in was almost the exact opposite of their local rivals with ten wins in the last 12 matches. Three current League managers played for Albion this season – Derek McInnes (Bristol City), Uwe Rosler (Brentford) and Portsmouth's Michael Appleton, whose career was ended by injury in November 2001.

While returning to the top division after an absence of 16 years, Albion nearly lost their manager, Gary Megson. When Everton sacked Walter Smith in March 2002, their board was split over whether to approach Megson or Preston's David Moyes. Chairman Bill Kenwright had the casting vote and opted for Moyes.

Stockport ended their five-year run at the second level in emphatic style, finishing 22 points adrift at the bottom of the table. Carlton Palmer, who replaced Andy Kilner as manager in November, won only two of his first 20 games in charge, a run that included ten straight defeats. Barnsley and Crewe also went down. Birmingham won the promotion play-off final, beating Norwich on penalties after a 1-1 draw. 

Several of these clubs have fallen a long way in ten years. Stockport and Grimsby are currently in the Conference and could be joined by Bradford by the end of this season. Gillingham, Rotherham and Crewe are all in League Two.

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