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22 March 2013 ~
Rio Ferdinand's fitness regime that has prevented him joining the England squad seems to involve flying out to Qatar to work as a TV pundit. Apparently the cabin pressure is good for the knees.
Badge of the week ~ AO Ayia Napa, Cyprus
There was a cultural scramble in Cyprus to obtain the rights to the Singing Crocodile image, with Ayia Napa being the first football team to secure approval. The Singing Crocodile is the subject of a popular folk tale that involves an orphan, a golden flute and a poor old couple. The story goes that a kindly old couple were so poor that they had to give away their only son to a rich merchant in the hope that the merchant would give him the upbringing and education they could not afford.
Unfortunately, the merchant instead made the boy work in a mail order catalogue business based in his cellar. In his ninth year of employment in the dispatch bay, the boy found a golden flute and began to practise on it every day until he could play so sweetly that the animals of the nearby mangrove would gather outside to listen, enraptured. One day a crocodile, one of the regulars, could restrain himself no longer and burst into song to accompany the beautiful melody. It sounded terrible – the crocodile only had one and a half octaves and was in a completely different key. People would come from miles around to shut the crocodile up.
The Singing Crocodile became symbolic of playing to one's strengths. For a football club, that means playing a direct game if your players don't have the technique for a quick passing style. For a crocodile, it means lying frighteningly still with your mouth wide open. Cameron Carter
from Paul Rogerson
"This article about Nigel Adkins and Leeds United skillfully works in the Marianas Trench and the Mary Celeste. The only surprise is that it didn't include a line about a sinking ship."
There was an impressive, if puzzling, demonstration of horsepower at the launch of Borussia Mönchengladbach's new team bus.
from Andi Thomas
"You have to feel sorry for Mikaël Silvestre when even Wikipedia starts to question his ability."
This Subbuteo set on Ebay is an unusual item. The standing figure, representing England mascot Ken Bailey, "has lost his rattle" but also appears to have blacked up. The seated figure in the middle is reaching for his colleague's hand in reassurance.
Paul Jewell's Wigan clinched promotion with four games to go and took the title by 14 points from Crewe. Their side included Leighton Baines, Jimmy Bullard, Australian goalkeeper John Filan and Canadian defender Jason de Vos. Nathan Ellington got their winner at QPR while his strike partner Andy Liddell was the club's top scorer with 16 goals.
Managed by Ian Holloway, QPR finished fourth and lost 1-0 in the play-off final to Cardiff, who were effectively playing at home in the Millennium Stadium. Earlier in the season Rangers had suffered one of their worst FA Cup defeats when they were beaten on penalties by Vauxhall Motors of the Northern Premier League.
QPR had gone into administration in April 2001 and were under a transfer embargo when the Football League signed up with the satellite channel ITV Digital. This meant that Rangers avoided the financial crisis caused by the channel's collapse in March 2002 which left many clubs tied to unaffordable player contracts. Holloway's side won automatic promotion in 2003-04.
On Friday evening, Cardiff had briefly moved up to second after beating Mansfield 1-0, with a goal from Rob Earnshaw who was to be the division's top scorer with 31. They then had a poor run-in, with just eight points from their last eight games, and only took the last play-off place by a point from Tranmere. Cardiff beat Bristol City in the play-off semi-finals while QPR knocked out Oldham.
Nineteen-year-old Dean Ashton scored two of Crewe's goals in their win at Luton while Sam Parkin hit a hat-trick in Swindon's thrashing of Notts County. Parkin scored 67 goals in three seasons at Swindon but made relatively little impact with a further seven clubs, though he did feature in St Mirren's Scottish League Cup win last Sunday. Other notable names playing this week included Stephen Hunt (Brentford), Rickie Lambert (Stockport), Simon Grayson (Blackpool) and Marco Gabbiadini (Northampton).
The bottom four clubs this week all went down, with Northampton finishing 24th after taking only one point from their last nine matches. For Huddersfield it was a return to the fourth level after an absence of 23 years. They were promoted straight back by winning the play-off final against Mansfield, who dropped into the Conference four years later.