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29 January 2010 ~

What more can go wrong for Portsmouth? Their official website was closed down briefly yesterday because an outstanding bill hadn't been settled. Or, as a club source put it: "We failed to adhere to an agreed payment structure." We preferred the jargon-free, and possibly rather tired, spokesperson quoted by Soccernet three days ago on rumours the players' wages were not going to be paid on time once again: "Who knows? This month the wages fall on a Sunday, so they need to be paid this Friday or Monday. Will they be late again? As I said, who knows?" While the club website was organising its new "payment structure", ticket sales were handled by the new Portsmouth Supporters Trust which will be accepting members from February 1. They’ve got their work cut out.

Badge of the week ~ FK Shafa Baku
This design, as a club crest, would be acceptable, possibly, as a first draft – a first draft created as a doodle on the back of an envelope while waiting for your badge designer colleague who has been delayed in traffic – but it surely cannot be acceptable as the finished product. The club's name scrawled in a hurry over a rudimentarily drawn football is not a design, it's a note-to-self. There is a lot of this wishy-washy kind of half-baked rubbish being passed off as customer-ready these days it seems. Only in a world where Five can get away with classifying Live From Studio Five as news coverage could this type of effort be accepted as a job well done. If this is an example of the work of the nation's top creatives then, I'm sorry, but I won't be travelling on Azerbaijan Airlines any time soon. Some will say: "Ah yes, but it's only a badge, what matters is how the team play." To which one retorts: "He who neglects the smaller details spoils the bigger picture. And who says 'Ah yes' any more?" A badge only its designers could kiss. Cameron Carter

You may know that Dion Dublin plays the saxophone and his dad was a professional musician. Now he's invented a musical instrument, a "stylish cube" that can be "totally customised". But you'll have to sign up to find out more.

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

NEC Nijmegen home, 2004-05
In its weekly questionnaire the Dutch football magazine Voetbal International used to ask players to nominate their least favourite shirt. Most opted for the red, black and green hoops of NEC Nijmegen which dated back to the 1930s and were loved by the club's fans. However, when a new chairman modernised the club in the late 1990s, the shirt was the first thing to go. It was banned from the club shop and retro shirtmakers were sternly warned to stay clear of the design. For NEC's centenary celebrations in 2000 the chairman launched "the shirt for the next 100 years", which was an all-white design. A fan referendum voted to swap it with the away version, which used the old club colours. The design kept changing, reaching its nadir in 2004-05 with this quartered effort which included the wrong shade of green. Now everyone, including NEC supporters, agreed that this was the worst shirt in the league. It was abandoned the following season in favour of a simpler design which has been retained since. Ernst Bouwes

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

Touching the stars
Playing with or against footballers, or indeed a celebrity of any kind
"While playing for Abbey Hey School's Under-11s side against St Chrysostom's in 1990, I had a brief pre-emptive brush with fame when I went for a lofted ball in the centre circle. At the peak of my jump, my crotch collided with the outstretched studs of future Manchester United defender/crock Wes Brown, the force and angle of which made my skinny frame flip violently head over heels, landing me on my back to an audible, anguished "ooooooh" from the parents on the sideline. I left the field in a flood of tears. Needless to say, that didn't move him to apologise when we passed within yards of each other on a busy Manchester shopping street some 15 years later." Ian Burke

from Paul Condon
"The Wikipedia summary of Francis Jeffers's career ends with a revelation.":

from Jon Hockley

"Sometimes a reporter's mind can wander. This how Steve Canavan of the Blackpool Gazette starts off his account of Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday last week: 'At a loss for something to do the other day – the missus was watching Celebrity Big Brother, need I say more? – I stumbled upon a book about British life. It was one of those "fascinating facts" books, the type that tells you lots of things you don't particularly need to know. Thus in a short space of time I learned that no word in the English language rhymes with mouth, orange, silver or purple; and that in 1945 a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand of Big Ben (the clock, not the Blackpool striker) and put the time back by five minutes. There was one other thing that caught my eye, that during the reign of William the Conqueror it was the law to go to bed at 8pm. Imagine that. We'd never see more than the opening 15 minutes of midweek footie games… Sky's viewing figures would plummet! Mind you last night Blackpool fans probably wouldn't have minded such a scenario as the Seasiders turned in an uncharacteristic below-par display and lost to Alan Irvine's well-prepared and well-organised Sheffield Wednesday.'".

from Brad Woodhouse
"Craig Gardner's move across Birmingham from Villa to Blues has been relatively low profile – no 'Welcome to Birmingham' posters featuring his image and what have you. I was quite sorry to see him go as although he was well down the order at Villa, he always worked hard and has a great shot on him. And it's sad to lose one of your own: 'For years, I was a fan singing on the terraces. Now supporters are singing to me while I play. That's massive,' he told Villa's official site a year or so back.

In the light of this, questions were asked as to why he would choose to play for Birmingham City. But all was revealed in Gardner's first interview from the dark side: 'I'm over the moon especially being at the club I supported as a boy. I just can't wait to get out there, put the shirt on and do well for the club. I have not slept properly for the last three or four days waiting until the deal to be done. Now it's done it's unbelievable.'

So what to believe? Is Craig confused, a liar or just a bit dim?"

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Igor Belanov Panini Futbol 87
Since it began in 1956, the European Footballer of the Year award has served as a reliable guide to the best known international footballers of each decade. The list of winners, however, includes one player whose fame had faded well before the end of his career. Dinamo Kiev midfielder Igor Belanov topped the poll in 1986 ahead of Gary Lineker and Real Madrid striker Emilio Butragueño, even though he wasn't rated as the best midfielder at his own club. By common consent, Alexander Zavarov, voted Soviet footballer of the year in 1986, was Kiev's star.

The voting system for the award changed after it was opened up to non-European players in 1995. In Belanov's day, votes were cast by journalists from almost all UEFA's member countries. However, many of the correspondents were based in Paris and it sometimes seemed that players benefited from having played in high-profile matches in France or involving French teams. Belanov had starred in Dinamo Kiev's Cup-Winners Cup final victory over Atlético Madrid, played in Lyon two months before the World Cup, then had a good game for the Kiev-dominated USSR team against France at the finals in Mexico. He went on to score a hat-trick in a second round defeat to Belgium, the first of which, a long-range drive, was voted one of the goals of the tournament.

Belanov was one of the first Soviet players to be allowed to move to the West. After an undistinguished spell in the Bundesliga with Mönchengladbach, he spent a couple of years with second-level Eintracht Braunschweig, then returned to play in his native Ukraine. He also remains the only European Footballer of the Year to have turned out for Blago Blagoevo of Bulgaria. Among the more recent winners of the award was a 21-year-old striker from north Wales called Michael Owen. His current whereabouts are unknown.

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