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27 February 2009 ~

Harry Redknapp
complained earlier this week about Spurs having a midweek European fixture followed by a cup final. Like Spurs, Villa sent out an understrength team in the UEFA Cup. Clubs concerned about their league position often rest first-choice players in the domestic cups but the old fashioned among us would expect teams to enter a competition with the intention of winning it (especially as Villa chose to compete in the Intertoto Cup in order to qualify for the UEFA Cup). It won't be long before reserve teams are fielded every week in order to rest players for, er...

Badge of the week
MFK Ruzomberok, a Slovakian club, have apparently employed as their crest the warning sign of a cantankerous neighbour to next door's children. Clearly, the message in these images, intelligible to all nationalities, is: "If your ball comes crashing over the fence into my prize dahlias again, I am going to puncture it with something spiky from the shed." There can be no other reading of this design. Football-over-fence disputes are notoriously complex legally and consequently are often settled out of court by the owner of the flower bed marching off with the ball to a private execution chamber. One in five plastic footballs purchased in Europe disappear in this manner. It is an obscure choice of message to have emblazoned upon your player's chest, but possibly warns them, on a subconscious level, of the folly of lofting the ball forward hopefully, especially against technically adept opposition that do not readily give away possession. There is no motto displayed on the badge, but if there were it would surely be the Slovak for "Easy Ball". Cameron Carter

Ray Wilkins was a popular player at Chelsea 30 years ago, but it was still a surprise to to see him come back in a coaching role given that his last experience in club football, at Millwall, was not a happy one. Here he is having a frank exchange of views in the car park at the New Den.

Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Tunisia 1992-94
A plain Adidas shirt that is now associated with an ignominious moment in the history of Tunisian football. The country staged the 1994 African Nations Cup which involved four groups of three teams with the top two in each qualifying for the quarter-finals. The hosts lost their first game, 2-0 to Mali, who in turn lost 1-0 to Zaire. So Tunisia needed to beat Zaire to reach the knockout stage. After leading at half-time they ended up drawing 1-1. Unsold replica shirts piled up in warehouses while local fans who attended later games in the tournament made a point of wearing their club tops. Not that many turned up – the semi-finals in the 45,000-capacity national stadium attracted just 2,000 spectators. The Tunisian players made partial amends by reaching the final of the next Nations Cup two years later, losing to the hosts South Africa. No host nation has yet done as badly in a major tournament as Tunisia at CAN 94 – but the struggling South Africans might test that record at next year's World Cup.

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

from Saul Pope
"Way back in 2004, when I was living on the edge of St Petersburg, the humdrum of the Sunday trip to the local supermarket was broken by a Tannoy announcement that local boy and Zenit forward Andrey Arshavin would be visiting the store later to sign autographs. Being a fan myself (his name was the password for my work email account) I quickly took my shopping home and hurried back to the supermarket. When I returned an hour later, I was greeted at the door by a scrum of around 100 13-year-old boys, none of whom seemed to have much idea about queuing nicely to meet their hero. Despite being a good deal bigger than most of them, 15 minutes later I found that I was no nearer to Arshavin – I might have even been further away. My spirits were further dampened by, in the distance, the permanent look of gloom on Andrey's face – as a fashion design graduate, perhaps the supermarket's utilitarian surroundings offered little inspiration – and I finally gave up when a man with a megaphone warned us all to simply take our autographs and leave once we got to the front, and not to try and attempt to speak to the great man. Now that he has moved to Arsenal, I am regretting giving up so easily; judging by current eBay prices, I could have fetched myself a tidy £4.99."

WSC archive
ITV's FA Cup coverage has been roundly condemned this season. But is the poor quality really that surprising? There is a history of questionable programming that goes all the way back to the days of the ill-fated ITV digital channel.

from Mike Innes
"The new Japanese season will be commencing in March, a point in the calendar that clearly provides the perfect opportunity to investigate the exciting world of football-related merchandise in a country never to slow to issue a commemorative T-shirt. Midway through last season, for instance, J2 minnows Thespa Kusatsu rushed out a limited edition shirt to celebrate the fact that for the first time ever they had managed to win three games in a row. The gesture was rendered curiously poignant when they won their next game, too. Hoping to follow Thespa into the J-League are ambitious semi-pro outfit V Varen Nagasaki, who have just been promoted into Japan's equivalent of the Blue Square Premier and are revelling in their ascendancy by bringing out a range of kites."

Mike has a blog about The Mighty Squirrels (Omiya Ardiya)

WSC Trivia ~ N0 54
From WSC 74, some readers' suggestion for football club acronyms:

SOUTHAMPTON Sight Of Ugly Terry Hurlock Always Makes People Think Of Neanderthals
LIVERPOOL Losing Instigates Various Excuses: Referees, Players Out, Opposition, Luck
FOREST Friends Of Really Eccentric Socialist Tyrant
HARTLEPOOL Healthy And Rugged Types Like Earlier Pillagers Of Our Landscape
BURNLEY Bastard Unusual Results Not Like Earlier Years
ALBION Always Look Brilliant In Opening Nano Seconds
WEST HAM We Entertain Supporters Though Hardly Achieve Much

A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Borislav Mihailov, Belenenses & Reading Panini Futebol 91 & Panini First Division 1997
Plenty of goalkeepers shave their heads now but in the early 1990s there seems to have been some shame attached to natural baldness, at least as far as Borislav Mihailov was concerned. The Bulgarian goalkeeper had a headful of curly hair at the 1986 World Cup but it had receded drastically by the end of the decade. His solution, revealed at the 1994 World Cup, was a hairpiece which must have been attached with industrial-strength solvent. That he was quite image-conscious was further demonstrated during his two seasons at Reading when he insisted on being called Bobby, a name he also had sprayed on the side of his car. Whatever might be said behind his back, the ludicrous rug has not proved to be an obstacle to Mihailov's career progress – since 2005 he has been president of the Bulgarian football federation.

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