A small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday
2 October 2009 ~

The crisis enveloping Portsmouth has the makings of particularly tawdry TV series. But the club's owner Sulaiman Al-Fahim has already starred in one such programme – the Apprentice-style Hydra Executives. His catchphrase was: "Impress me." It turns out that the two winners of the show have yet to receive their prize money. When they do perhaps they could help with paying wages at Fratton Park.

Badge of the week
The Swiss are a very tidy people and also very precise – they are excellent at watchmaking and there is no word in Swiss-French for "lint". This national characteristic or, to be more precise, stereotype, perhaps explains why Sankt Gallen's badge is not cluttered by anything so chaotic as a picture. Instead there are just nice, manageable words in a responsible and mature font. One knows where one is with words, you see. Pictures can muddy the mind and lead on to such phenomena as daydreaming, which is destabilising and loses thousands of labour hours a year in slacker countries. The only nod to irreverence and unorthodoxy here is that the font is somewhat playfully rendered in italics – the designer is surely the enfant terrible of Swiss graphic design. In fact the badge probably only just scraped past the internal affairs censor. Cameron Carter

Stuck for Christmas gift ideas? This won't help but you could buy it anyway. Be a football hero offers a personalised commentary from a "John Motson and Alan Hansen soundalike" who will describe the gift's recipient scoring a decisive goal in an important match. But as the voices are provided by impressionists, why be restricted to football commentators? You could have a Johnstone's Paint Trophy final described by David Bowie with interjections from Marilyn Monroe and the Rev Ian Paisley. Roll out the brand.

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Reading, 1991-92
The original Reading team photograph dating from 1872 shows them wearing narrow-hooped shirts but stripes were adopted very soon after and used until 1938. Thereafter the hoops have been much in the ascendant. This home shirt is known locally as the "TV interference kit" and suggests some kind of geometric compromise between the horizontal and the vertical. In fact the design owes less to Euclid and far more to the machinations of Ian Porterfield. The kit deal was sealed shortly before Porterfield departed as one of the club's least successful managers – nevertheless it had to be used. To add to the revulsion with which the design was met and the dismay that the sponsor was now a local painting company rather than a nationally known brewer (Courage) came the feeling of having been taken for a ride by someone with Scottish connections. The home shirt was the same as Hamilton Academicals' away shirt and vice versa. You can examine the latter pairing, the notorious red and white "jailbird" design, on both the Reading and Hamilton pages. Roger Titford

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

from Matt Rowson
"Our wedding day on August 26, 2001 and we're in the foyer of a swanky London hotel, queuing up, slightly dazed and bewildered, behind the family checking in at reception. Said group were dominated by two small children, chasing each other around the foyer at high-speed while screaming excitedly in Spanish. Their mother leaned casually on the reception counter, accepting the impossibility of containing her offspring where there was space to run around. The father had his back to us; he was dressed in a sharp but unflashy suit, conducting the business at hand and occasionally barking impatiently at the high-velocity kids haring around his feet, but always without turning around.

Only when his affairs were complete did he turn and I recognised soon-to-be-ex-Middlesbrough striker Hamilton Ricard beneath the wraparound shades. In retrospect the greatest surprise was not the incongruousness of the encounter (I didn't expect to run into a misfiring Boro striker on my wedding night), but the fact that his kids displayed a turn of pace that had been largely absent from his contributions at the Riverside. They must have inherited that from their mother."

from Saul Pope

"I work on the same road as Bracknell Town's ground. Perhaps if I manage to make friends with their manager I'll be able to verify his unusual taste in fixtures and fittings described on Wikipedia."

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

I played for Blackburn Rovers Supporters Club, London branch, in the APFSCIL league throughout the 1990s (my party piece is pausing after the first four words of that sentence). I'd met this lad from Darwen, called Neil Arthur, who used to front up synth-poppers Blancmange. He seemed to be able to play football a bit and supported Rovers, so came along to stake a claim to a place in our struggling side. Everyone in the team knew who he was. But for three weeks no one mentioned it. Until one lad, a copper, blurted out: "Right, Mr Pop Star what are you up to these days?" Anecdotes flew around and giddy questions fired at him until PC Pat asked him bluntly if he was thinking of getting Blancmange back together. A diplomatic answer followed, a less sensitive reply came back: "Come on Neil, there's always room in the charts for a couple of poofs with a synthesiser." Michael Taylor

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Bram Braam, MVV Maastricht & Oeki Hoekema, De Graafschaap Voetbal Sterren 1973-74
Had Bram Braam been an English player you can be sure that programme notes would often have complimented him on having a good engine. Abraham Braam might have become a famous name of the Total Football era had his career as a full-back with Ajax taken off. Instead he made only one appearance alongside Cruyff and co, in 1972, before moving on to MVV followed by spells with another three clubs.

Oeki Hoekema may sound like an exclamation by The Simpsons' Ned Flanders but he had a greater brush with fame than Bram Braam. As a 22-year-old striker with PSV, Hoekema (whose real first name was Ulike) scored on his debut for Holland in an 8-0 win over Luxembourg in 1971 – but he wasn't capped again. Like Bram, he went on to play for several smaller teams before retiring in the mid-1980s. We hope that both have kept those moody sideburns. Other notable names in this sticker album include Bram's MVV team-mate Cor Pot, plus Joop Mom, Co Stout and Dick Twist. No offence is intended, Dutch readers – we're just saying.

from Cameron Thomson
"As a follow-up to the Stickipedia feature on Chic Charnley in last week's Howl, one of his more bizarre dismissals was while he was with Hamilton Academicals for a tunnel bust-up in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Falkirk. The game had only been arranged during a particularly long winter layoff to keep the players ticking over. Chic now turns out regularly for Celtic in Masters Football competitions, despite only having played the one friendly for them."

Contribute to the Weekly Howl
If you’ve met a footballer, seen any Wikipedia vandalism or if there’s anything else you want to get off you chest, we’d like to hear from you ~ drop us a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Related articles

Photo of the week ~ Kids on the terraces of Reading’s old Elm Park ground
Young fans perch on a floodlight base at Elm Park, which was Reading’s home between 1896 and 1998...
The best and worst moments of 2017 ~ part one
Embed from Getty Imageswindow.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:'f6dCwiUKS4xlyZH6N3k7MA',sig...
Remembering Robin Friday – the Reading and Cardiff maverick ahead of his time
With the two clubs meeting on Monday evening it’s worth looking back at a cult figure who was the the patron saint of bad-boy, and is the...

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday