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22 May 2009 ~

You may be aware that some clubs from the north-east could get relegated from the Premier League on Sunday. Whatever happens, at least we'll see an end to the rampantly overblown analysis in the national press. Here's a brief extract from the reams of coverage over the past few days.

"It really is squeaky-bum time in the north-east"
"The region's three proud football clubs are united by fear"
"A lot of it is down to the foreign players. There are no characters any more"
"Football is a central part of identity here and the closest we've got to a form of tribal behaviour"
"Feelings are raw in the cut-throat world of north-east football"
"Slog on the Tyne"
"Newcastle and their fans are a dying breed in the modern world of Premier League football with its corporate love affair"
"Northern Rot - crisis gripping the football heartland"
"Auf wiedersehen, pet!"
"When Shearer came in I thought 'Fantastic – legend'

Badge of the week
Halmstads' crest is Badge of the Week by virtue of its sheer opaqueness. The HBK presents no problem to the expert codebreaker but after this we are in the land of the unknown with no tour guide or brochure. It could be a bunch of bananas in the top left corner but surely Sweden is not among the foremost producers of this fruit? If we see it as a peeled and separated orange, the same quibble arises. Nonplussed by this image, we drag our questioning eyes to the opposite corner where we encounter what is perhaps a complex mathematical equation for the speed a postman walks in August. Repelled by the abstruse nature of these figures and feeling a little less confident about our knowledge of the world in general, we are forced to retire to a quiet municipal bench and eat our way through a whole bag of marshmallows. It's all very well wanting to be different, but what is wrong with a good old-fashioned picture? We're just identifying a football team here, not entering for the Fermat Prize. Halmstad are clearly the dangerous intellectuals of European football. Cameron Carter

Are you impressed to hear that someone holds the world record for keepy-uppy or running along while balancing a football on the back of their neck? No, neither are we because the people who do this sort of stuff wouldn't need to if they were better at actually playing football. But panna is a skill that does have some direct bearing on how you play the game – you win if you retain possession and nutmeg an opponent. The UK qualifying tournament is open to under-14s and "14 plus" – which may or may not extend to over 40s. If you go along and duly complete a nutmeg, mark it by repeating what Bobby Charlton supposedly shouted when bamboozling brother Jackie in a Man Utd v Leeds game in the mid-1960s: "I did yer!"

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Nagoya Grampus Eight home, 1993-94
A top that may still contain traces of Gary Lineker's musk from one of his rare appearances for Nagoya. Lineker spent three seasons in the J-League but due to a dicky knee played only 24 matches, scoring seven goals. His Japanese stay had an influence though – he wore a Tokyo designer's collarless jacket on many of his early appearances as a BBC presenter. Nagoya Grampus Eight were the Toyota company team prior to the creation of the J-League in 1993. The Grampus (killer whale) is an official symbol of Nagoya while the Eight derives from the family crest of the city's former ruling dynasty. The team won their first major trophy, the Emperor's Cup, the year after Linker left with a team coached by Arsène Wenger. Quite a busy shirt, you'd have to say.

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

from Jon Matthias
"About Derek Smalls wearing Shrewsbury Town colours in last week's Howl – apparently the actor who plays Derek was in a sporting goods store in London looking for a costume and spotted the Town shirt. He liked it because of the stripes and because they were an obscure club, which kind of fitted into his character. This has been covered a few times in Shrewsbury fanzines, although no one has been able to pinpoint which store it was or why the hell they had a Town shirt in there. This was of course before wearing replica shirts became the in thing for all and sundry. Incidentally, if Spinal Tap fans want a Smallsian shirt, Toffs released a replica in their classic football shirts range a few years ago. Come to a Town game and you will see several people wearing one." 
from Joe Herzog

"Fans of seminal football violence film Green Street will surely be sad to see the decline of the franchise, according to Wikipedia."

from David Blackwell
"I was disappointed that Histon's defeat in the Conference play-offs is likely to mean that their midfielder Nathaniel Knight-Percival won't be appearing in League football next season. This leaves Swansea's Owain Tudur-Jones (plausibly a keeper of Assyrian artefacts at the British Museum) as the current player who sounds most like they could have turned out for the Old Etonians in an 1870s FA Cup final. Unless former Southend and Yeovil striker Barrington Belgrave ever decides to make a comeback."

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Mark Lazarus, Orient Wonderful World of Soccer Stars 1970-71 & Johnny Morrissey, Everton Wonderful World of Soccer Stars 1968-69
It's very rare that a team's toughest player is a winger. But that was the case at Everton during Johnny Morrissey's heyday and at each of the five clubs to have employed Mark Lazarus. Morrissey began with Liverpool and, according to Ian St John, was one of a group of locally born players who resented the arrival of several Scots brought in by manager Bill Shankly. It was against Shankly's wishes, however, that Morrissey was sold to Everton in 1962. He featured on the left wing in their title-wining team the following year and won another League medal in 1969-70 by which time he established a reputation for intimidating defenders. In a photo from that season, Morrissey is shown wasting time in a match Everton were winning against Leeds. With a foot on the ball by the corner flag, he looks at an imaginary watch; two Leeds players, Paul Reaney and Billy Bremner, are standing directly behind him but neither is risking a tackle. Morrissey's son John also went on to be a winger, of the more conventional, twinkle-toed variety, and made over 400 League appearances for Tranmere.

Mark Lazarus was born in east London to a family that had produced a couple of professional boxers. He had fought as an amateur himself and was once sent off while with QPR for laying out an opposing full-back. Lazarus had three separate spells at QPR with whom he experienced his best career moment – scoring the decisive goal in the 1967 League Cup final as Rangers came back from two down to beat West Brom 3-2. He was in the Crystal Palace side that won promotion to Division One in 1969 but left them that summer for Orient, retiring in 1971 after which he ran Lazarus Removals in Romford and a steam baths in Canning Town. Boxing connections led to another of his post-football jobs, when he was employed as a minder for the stable of snooker players managed by fight promoter, and current Orient chairman, Barry Hearn.

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