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20 November 2009 ~

Every current and former player capable of speech has now been asked for their reaction to Thierry Henry's handball. One of the strangest aspects of the furore is that it produced some sense from "Mr Marmite", Robbie Savage in his Daily Mirror column: "This isn't some journeyman looking for an edge. This is one of the best players in the world. And when the moment came, for all the ability he has, his competitive edge took over and he did what came naturally. The will to win is in all footballers. Even if that means winning at all costs."

Meanwhile, Damien Duff has suggested that there was a conspiracy involving Adidas: "They sponsor the World Cup, they sponsor France. Michel Platini has a lot of influence as well." Adidas also sponsor Damien Duff who is paid £100,000 a year to wear the boots with which he missed a great opportunity to put Ireland two up on Wednesday. Shortly after that incident spectators say that a French federation official in the stands slipped what looked like a remote control device into his jacket pocket. After which he took a call from a "Sepp" who said something that made him laugh. Brrr.

Badge of the week ~ Home Farm FC
This badge makes a lovely change from all the footballs and stars and rampant lions. Here we have either a man whose bag of crisps, stubbornly resisting his cold fingers' attempts at opening along the seam, has burst open suddenly, spilling all contents. Or perhaps the pictured figure is a farmer sewing his seed in a way that suggests he hasn't invested in the newest technologies available. This alone might lead the neutral to question his suitability for the world of agriculture, even before we notice he is wearing white shoes in a ploughed field. Clearly the figure is a rural modern romantic who has been press-ganged into working on the family farm and who even now is plotting his escape to the city where there is an ice rink and the morning-after pill and pedestrianised areas. He looks rueful and introspective and out of place now, but he will blossom in the city – his time will come. Cameron Carter

from Graham Sherlock
"Sometimes match reports hint at other things that were on the writer's mind. This may have been the case with the Observer's Paul Wilson, whose report on England's friendly with Brazil begins thus: 'If Fabio Capello can read anything significant into this game, he should consider pondering tea leaves as a sideline. That's if he can find any tea leaves. These days, they seem to be more of a rarity than fit England players.' Is that true, though? Most supermarkets stock a few brands of leaf tea while health shops will have a shelf-full from around the world. Mr Wilson may have been ruefully reflecting on a late night expedition in search of Rooibos. If he'd thought to mention a favourite brand by name he might have been sent a kilo by now."

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Preston North End away, 1993-94
Preston North End have worn predominantly white shirts since the first ever Football League season in 1888-89, when they were the inaugural champions. The shirts remained basically unchanged until the introduction of sponsorship in the 1970s saw various marketing initiatives "enhancing" the plain white with various designs and patterns. One of the most popular with fans (but unsuccessful on the field) was the tickertape shoulder flashes adopted in 1992-93 as part of the deal with wallpaper manufacturer Coloroll. At least the shirts added some colour to the predictable and stereotyped pattern of play introduced by John Beck.

Following relegation, an even more extreme away shirt was introduced for 1993-94. In itself it was a definite break with tradition with its fragmented mix of blue, yellow and white in offset stripes. As it featured in that season's play-off campaign the shirt was extremely popular with fans. The downside was that the manufacturers did not bother to make sure each shirt had the same starting point for the fragmented pattern. The result was team photos that looked like the players were wearing off-cuts from a touring production of Joseph. The material also left much to be desired in dispersing sweat (even on the coldest day) but as with most other innovations during the Beck era, it helped give fans a sense of their otherness and can still be seen on away trips over 15 years later. Martin Atherton

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

WSC Trivia ~ No 83
We have just published Up Front – a collection of WSC covers from the past 20 years. These days every cover tends to feature players and managers, but stars of the past have included Elton John, Robert Maxwell, Peter Swales, David Mellor, Stan Flashman, an unnamed man in a balaclava, people dressed in rabbit and elephant costumes and Margaret Thatcher (twice). As to who the next cover debutant might be, we have a queasy feeling that David Cameron might make an appearance during 2010.

from Jon Hockley
"There are some things that will always surprise me about lower league footballers. For instance, until finding it on Wikipedia, I never knew Carl Muggleton was such a fan of headwear. His loan to Stockport must have been a brief but happy one."

from Ed Upright
"I've noticed that no Howl reader has yet confessed to meeting a footballer while being a team mascot. December 12, 1993, was my big day as I led Sunderland out in a televised game at Blundell Park. Assuming for some reason that on reaching the pitch I would turn right, I found myself haring towards the Grimsby penalty area surrounded by an unfamiliar team. Realising my mistake, I quickly turned full-circle. To my good fortune this scene was only broadcast by the more technologically advanced Yorkshire TV (who had cameras on top of the Findus Stand) and not in the pictures shown by Tyne Tees which all my friends were watching at home. I was then forced to shake hands with Mr Blobby and accidentally, but comprehensively, lobbed Alec Chamberlain in the warm-up. I was on the pitch longer than the match itself, which was abandoned due to waterlogging after seven minutes.

My pre-match excitement was somewhat ruined by my mild-mannered father's clear discomfort as he was caught in an aggressive gimlet glare from Grimsby striker (and Sunderland fan) Clive Mendonca. As Mendonca's family come from a tough area of Sunderland I have since wondered if there had been a case of mistaken identity. To compound our sense of grievance he went on to score a hat-trick against Sunderland in the 1998 play-off final. As he celebrated his third goal, and Charlton's fourth, Mendonca ran as close to us as the Wembley pitch would allow. I turned round to commiserate with my dad but the poor man was almost under his chair, the scare of five years earlier still fresh in his mind."

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Raymond Domenech, Racing Strasbourg Panini Football 80
In the build-up to France's World Cup play-off with Ireland the sports paper L'Equipe captioned a picture of national coach Raymond Domenech as "Ireland's secret weapon". Domenech doesn't seem to be taken seriously by anyone. No one outside the French federation seems to think he is good at his job, he makes bizarre team selections – some of which are apparently guided by astrology – and even embarrassed his fiancee by proposing to her during a TV interview.

Yet in his playing days as a right-back Domenech was the epitome of a dour, no-nonsense defender. As the text with this sticker explains: "A player with a tough reputation, known for being hard with himself as well as with others. The Buster Keaton of French football: he never smiles." That last point isn't quite true – among our tidy collection of Domenech stickers this is just about the only one in which he isn't beaming at the camera. Still, the way his left hand is clenched here suggests that the photographer should consider backing away quickly.

Domenech began with Lyon, whom he later coached, and went on to win league titles with Strasbourg and Bordeaux while getting eight caps. As a coach he has been a runner-up with France at a European Under-21 championship and the last World Cup. No one seems to expect him to improve on that record at South Africa 2010.

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