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21 May 2010 ~

The tantalising selection of Aston Villa underpants up for sale on Ebay this week doesn't include any worn by James Milner. We're told that these will be posted up separately with a starting price of £20 million (there's already been some interest from Abu Dhabi).

Badge of the week
Esporte Clube Bahia are messing with your mind. It would be best not to scrutinise this badge too closely. Within the circular crest is the Bahia flag: the red stripes representing the blood spilled in combat, the white representing the relative tranquillity of the players' lounge. So far this is standard badge business. Yet in the top left-hand corner of the flag, we see another flag – a flag within a flag. Presumably, if we had good enough eyesight, we would see upon that flag, in the left-hand corner, another flag, and upon that flag another, and so on, unto infinity. Were one to dwell on this endless lineage for any amount of time one would develop a form of mental illness whereby the sufferer feels they are plunging headlong into The Abyss even when sitting on an easy chair watching Challenge Tommy Walsh. You do realise, of course, that in the Hotel Of Infinite Rooms, there is always a room free, even when the hotel is full. So this is the world into which the club Bahia wish to transport you. Please do not try to follow the flags. Syd Barrett tried to follow the flags. You look away now. Cameron Carter

Getting shirty
Notable kits of yesteryear

Torquay United home, 1991-93
From the 1920s to the 1950s Torquay United played in black and white – sometimes with stripes, sometimes without – and were known as, you've guessed it, the Magpies. Then the seaside gold and blue gained the upper hand save for the odd aberration such as the Dave Webb-inspired all-blue of the mid-1980s Dark Ages.

Next – lo and behold! – the club reached the Fourth Division play-offs in 1991 and suddenly appeared in lovely fresh yellow and white stripes. An inspired piece of timing that reflected well on the new broom sweeping through Plainmoor at the time. And, what's more, the new look brought immediate success as Torquay defeated Blackpool at Wembley on penalties. Beat that for impact and a kit leaving indelible memories.

Thereafter, I'm afraid the colours quickly lost their magic as Torquay were promptly relegated and, indeed, continued to struggle when back in their natural habitat. Other striped efforts followed for a while until the yellow and white design made a reappearance between 1999 and 2001, enabling desperately-trying-to-be-fashionable individuals to fish the earlier kit out of the attic.

And, during the early 1990s, those yellow and white stripes were accompanied by a purple away strip in which – if memory serves – Torquay never won a game. However they did win against the purple when Swansea were obliged to borrow it on a visit to Plainmoor. Nick House

Buy this shirt and hundreds of others at Classic Football Shirts

from Tom Hoyle
"For me, it's hard to think of a more effective way to ruin a perfectly good Sunday hangover than to attend the Chelsea Victory Parade, but as it was right outside my front door I didn't have much choice. You've got to hand it to the Chelsea fans – they came in numbers despite the rain showers and some of them travelled a long way. But what everyone lining the streets of south-west London will have missed is how close the parade came to tragedy after its official conclusion at Parsons Green.

The club have been arranging the tour for weeks with the Met, Hammersmith & Fulham council, the ambulance service and others. The streets were packed with riot vans, Portaloos, ambulances and there were two police choppers in the sky – all giving the impression the whole thing had been meticulously organised.

The players, coaches, WAGs and groupies were still yelling and hollering even as their two double-deckers zoomed away from the blue-shirted, flag-waving fans down the deserted New Kings Road. That was until a few on each top-deck realised that their bus was hurtling towards a very low bridge, imperilling the umbrella holders and tallest among them. They were right to worry: bridge D95 serves the District line and only has a 15ft clearance, which you might think a planner, a policeman or the bus driver would see coming.

Petr Cech would have needed more than a scrum helmet if he hadn't been among those frantically dipping. The instant silence which broke out among England's highest earning yobs as they took cover was priceless... especially on a Sunday hangover."

This week in history ~ Serie A, May 23, 1999


Just like this season, the 1998-99 Serie A title was contested by Milan and Rome but in this case it was the other clubs from those cities. A run of nine successive wins took Sven-Göran Eriksson's Lazio to the top of the table at the start of February. They led Milan by seven points after a 0-0 draw between the teams in the 28th round of matches but that was followed by two defeats, one in the Rome derby, while Milan racked up seven successive wins.

A 1-1 draw with Fiorentina in the penultimate match led to Sven's side being overtaken. On the final day Milan were always in control, taking a two-goal first-half lead at Perugia through Andrés Guglielminpietro and their top scorer Oliver Bierhoff. Lazio's top marksman, Marcelo Salas, got both their goals at home to Parma.

Four days earlier Lazio had become the last team to win the Cup-Winners Cup, with a Pavel Nedved goal clinching a 2-1 win over Mallorca at Villa Park. Parma also landed a European trophy, beating Marseille 3-0 in the UEFA Cup final.

Fiorentina, coached by Giovanni Trapattoni, had led for 20 games until a sequence of four matches without a win in February pushed them down to third. This run coincided with the absence of injured striker Gabriel Batistuta – who had scored a hat-trick in a 3-1 win at Milan in September – and his Brazilian colleague Edmundo, who had taken an unscheduled break for the Rio carnival.

Salernitana's side in their first, and to date only, season in Serie A included 21-year-old Gennaro Gattuso, back home after two seasons with Rangers. Needing to win at Piacenza to have a chance of avoiding relegation, they could only draw 1-1, with their opponents' goal coming from 40-year-old ex-international Pietro Vierchowod.

Sampdoria also went down after 17 seasons in Serie A during which they had won a championship, four cups and a Cup-Winners Cup. Striker Vincenzo Montella, who missed a dozen games through injury, came back to score 11 goals in the last nine matches but it was too late. Former Samp star David Platt briefly took over as coach in mid-season but failed to win any of his six games before being replaced by the man he'd taken over from, Luciano Spalletti. Platt's compatriot Lee Sharpe failed to impress in his three games on loan from Leeds before moving on to Bradford City.

WSC Trivia ~ No 89
We like to provide staff incentives. But the office budget doesn't yet extend to trips to Alton Towers or hospitality packages at JLS concerts. Instead, we decided to order a large box of sweets once a certain number of complimentary emails had been received from readers. We kept a wallchart of the running total in the manner of a Blue Peter appeal and, yes, it did take a while. The box of gums, gobstoppers, chews and sherbert was put in another room with a couple of heavy books on top of it so we'd have to expend some energy while piling on the calories. But it was all polished off within a day or so, leaving us feeling irritable and queasy. Memories of those wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels have dimmed a bit now so we're doing it again with these World Cup sweets.

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Bobby Geddes, Dundee Panini Football 89 & Kevin Poole, Leicester City Football League 96
It's a sign that you are getting old when some football managers are younger than you. So for anyone noticing the spread of wrinkles and crows' feet, it's nice to hear of footballers who are still flinging themselves around in a professional capacity when they are old enough to be grandparents. Bobby Geddes was Dundee's regular goalkeeper throughout the 1980s and later had spells with Kilmarnock and Brechin City. Now 49, he is back with Dundee as their goalkeeping coach. In April 2010 he became the club's oldest player when he came on as substitute in a match against Raith Rovers.

Kevin Poole joined Aston Villa as an apprentice in 1979 and went on to have a long career with Leicester and Birmingham, among others. He joined Burton Albion aged 43 in 2006 and was a regular in the side that won promotion to the League last year. Now also the club's goalkeeping coach he played a further six matches in 2009-10 and has signed another playing contract for next season by which time he will be 47.

If Bobby and Kevin can hang about for a bit they might even get a tilt at the record held by Neil McBain, the New Brighton manager who came out of retirement to play one game against Hartlepool in March 1947 aged 51 years and 120 days.

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