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11 September 2009 ~

Now that England have qualified for South Africa, prepare for a deluge of World Cup songs. There will be an insipid official number, probably by a girl band, and a slew of desperate cash-ins that are sure to involve: James Corden, Lily Allen, Peter Kay, Jordan, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Ian Wright. So we'll be sponsoring a CD smashing jamboree sometime in May – look out for ticket information nearer the time.

Badge of the week
Something different from Gwardia Warszawa. No one seems to talk about mermaids anymore do they? In the olden days they were big news because sailors would wander overboard entranced by them or ships would flounder on rocks because the first mate had copped an eyeful. Nowadays, this danger would be averted because all sea-going professionals attend a two-day compulsory course, "Mermaids – Pull Yourself Together", which instructs them in the risks of following mixed-species females to their underwater kingdom. It is good to see that Gwardia keep the tradition alive, depicting a warlike mermaid on their crest, waving a pool cue. You may think a mermaid brandishing a potentially offensive weapon might not be so alluring to seamen but it is well known that if there is one thing more alluring than a semi-naked woman on a rock, it is a semi-naked woman who is good at pool. After extensive research, the link between the club, Warsaw and mermaids remains a mystery to me but, nevertheless, here is a dynamic image with verve. And in the world of club crests, sadly, verve is an increasingly rare commodity. Cameron Carter

from Dave Eason
"Most football supporters I know are unified by one thing these days – annoyance at Sky's patronising adverts for their football coverage with the tagline: 'We Know How You Feel About It, Because We Feel The Same.' That can't be true, however, unless everyone employed by Sky happens to be Generally Disengaged With A Dry Cough And A Nagging Ache In The Left Shoulder. Now ESPN have decided to plough the same furrow in their newspaper ads. A picture of a supporter cupping an ear is captioned: 'I Will Mock, Gloat And Go Aaaaah. Team And Weather Permitting.' But I can't stand the ear-cupping routine, whether it's done by players or supporters, and noisy gloating tends to be done by berks. This seems like a strikingly inept way to pitch your product unless the intended subtext is something like: 'We're As Snide And Annoying As You. Join Us!'"

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Queen's Park home, 1998-2000
No football team shirt has remained unchanged for as long as that of Queen's Park. The oldest club in Scotland have worn narrow black and white hoops for 136 years – although this was a radical departure from the navy blue worn for three years from their foundation in 1870. The players wore their club shirts when they provided Scotland's entire team for the first international match, against England in 1872, but navy blue didn't become the official international colour until the 1890s. Since then all that has changed in Queens Park's strip is the colour of the socks, either black or white, and the hoops' thickness. These were broadened slightly in the 1990s but have since reverted to the classic design. Queen's Park were hugely successful in the 19th century, winning the Scottish Cup ten times. Surprisingly only one club, East Stirlingshire, copied their shirts. The distinctive kit was also the source of the club's nickname, the Spiders.

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

Strewth and blimey, the UK premiere of The Firm last night sounded like a proper carry on. According to the film company's press release: "Guy Ritchie celebrated his 41st birthday at the premiere, supporting his mate – director Nick Love. He donned a black Fila trakkie top to adhere to The Firm dress code of Fila gear. Flawless bantered with Nick Love in the press line-up – the whole crew were dressed in black tracksuits and varying degrees of urban coolness." The "trakkie bottom celebs" in attendance included: "Jeremy Clarkson, Lamar, Patsy Kensit, Jemima Khan, Daisy Donovan, Martin Kemp, Nigel Havers, DJ Spoony and Barry Davies." Yes, that Barry Davies, the commentator known for his censorious tutting at incidents of foul play and bad sportsmanship. How will he have responded to the tale of "Dom, a young wannabe football casual, who gets drawn into the charismatic but dangerous world of the firm’s top boy, Bex"? Still, it will have helped that the story is "humorous, heart warming and set to a killer jazz funk 80s soundtrack". 

from Euan Mackay
"The first excerpt from this Wiki entry on Hearts cult hero Neil MacFarlane is largely true, the second part less so."

Touching the stars
Playing with or against footballers, or indeed a celebrity of any kind

A few months back I turned up a little early for my weekly five-a-side match and decided to watch the games currently in play. On one pitch involving two teams in our league, I noticed that the team which had all the nippy, young skilful players, who revel in being ten years younger than the opposition, were getting rather agitated while playing a team even we could usually beat.

The source of their ire was a lanky, effortlessly skilful forward the other team had acquired and who was now humiliating the best side in the league. The lanky player was Gus Poyet. It turned out that the team he was in were builders and Gus had agreed to play a game with them because they had finished his extension ahead of schedule. I asked if he'd play for my team one evening, but he obviously has less regard for IT technicians as he politely declined. Andy Gill

This week in history ~ Division One, September 13, 1969


A goal from Roy McFarland at Newcastle took newly-promoted Derby to the top of the table. Brian Clough's young side included only four players with previous experience at the top level. They fell away after a run of five defeats in seven matches in the autumn but recovered to finish fourth, their highest League position since 1948-49.

Everton went top the following week and stayed there for almost the entire season, winning the Championship by nine points. Their side included only three players from their previous title-winning team of seven years earlier, goalkeeper Gordon West, centre-back Brian Labone and winger Johnny Morrissey. They provided four players for England's 1970 World Cup finals squad, with Labone joined by Alan Ball, who scored one of their goals against West Ham, plus full-backs Keith Newton and Tommy Wright.

Leeds briefly displaced Everton at the top in the spring but suffered from fixture pile-up through being involved, unsuccessfully, in three competitions – they lost in the semi-finals of the European Cup to Celtic and to Chelsea in an FA Cup final replay. Required to play four League games in eight days in late March and early April, they fielded an entire reserve side – including Gabby Logan's dad, Terry Yorath – in a 4-1 loss at Derby, plus under-strength teams in three other defeats in their final six matches.

Crystal Palace lost a two-goal half-time lead in drawing at Coventry, both of whose goals were penalties. Coventry went on to finish sixth, which is still their best ever League position. Playing their first season at the top level, Palace were one place above the relegation area after they completed their fixtures but could still be overhauled if Sheffield Wednesday won their last match, at home to Man City. But Wednesday lost 2-1 and finished bottom. The other relegated club were Sunderland who spent the whole season in the bottom three. Nonetheless, their squad contained seven of the players who were to win the FA Cup four years later.

Winger Ian Moore – his full surname, Storey-Moore, was rarely used – scored both Forest's goals in their 2-1 defeat of Southampton. He helped to briefly revive Man Utd's fortunes after joining them in 1972 but had to retire at 27 due to injury only 18 months later. Willie Morgan scored United's goal in their defeat of Liverpool in front of the day's biggest crowd, 59,387. In manager Wilf McGuinness's only full season in charge, United hovered around mid-table and eventually finished eighth.

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Alan Dicks, Ethnikos & Les Shannon, OFI Crete Panini Greece 1983
The Greek league has been one of the most popular overseas destinations for British managers, although few have stayed long. Alan Dicks spent just one season in charge at Ethnikos, a club from the Athens port suburb of Piraeus, who have always been overshadowed by their neighbours Olympiakos. Les Shannon fared much better, however, spending a total of 11 seasons in Greek football during which he won the cup three times, twice with PAOK Salonika and once with their city rivals, Iraklis.

Dicks and Shannon have one other thing in common – they were the last managers to get Bristol City and Blackpool respectively promoted to the top division. As a first-team coach at Arsenal in the 1960s, Shannon is credited with having brought through several members of the 1970-71 Double-winning team. In his brief managerial career in England, he took Bury up from the Third Division before moving on to Blackpool where he was sacked with the team bottom of the First Division in October 1970. Bristol City had only their second-ever spell in the top flight under Dicks, for four seasons from 1976-77. The club then sank through the divisions after a financial crisis brought on by giving players contracts they couldn't afford. Dicks spent 13 seasons at Ashton Gate and remains a popular figure, although Fulham fans may have less fond memories of him. The popular chant of "Dicks Out!", heard while the club struggled in the Third Division under his management in 1990-91, became the title of a book about football songs.

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