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15 October 2010 ~

Marvellous news about the Chilean miners. After weeks of anguish, stress and painstaking toil in dank and cramped conditions, we managed to find a sticker card of Franklin Lobos, the former footballer who was the 27th of the 33 miners to be lifted to the surface earlier this week. Lobos, who spent nine seasons in the Chilean first division with four different clubs, scored from over 100 free-kicks during his playing career and was nicknamed the "Magic Mortar". After retiring he worked for a taxi firm then became a truck driver at the mine. One of his former clubs, Cobresal, may now rename their stadium after him. The miners have been inundated with gifts so the least we can do is send a box of 2010 "Here comes the summer" WSC T-shirts.

Badge of the week ~ Brothers Union, Bangladesh
Firstly, what a lovely name for a football team. More teams should have names like this. All Friends Manchester, Milton Keynes Repentant Souls, Lovely Leicester Boys... surely there would be less ill-feeling between players, managers and fans? Who could possibly chant in unison "We hate you Lovely Leicester Boys, we do…"? That's right, no one. The song would fade on the lips. As regards the actual badge, we are presented here with a quartet of images. In the top left we have a footballer with lymphatic fluid retention in his right arm. This is straightforward enough, the Brother's Union simply urge one to play on through sickness and hardship, nothing wrong with that. In the top right, a book alerts us to the fact that book-reading would be a nice thing to do if any of us had time. This is just the emblematic equivalent of a public information short and, again, there is nothing amiss with the sentiment. At bottom right, a man opens his skylight to look upon the moon, patrolling blind the heavens' way. This is the club telling us that the finest pleasures are free, like watching trees in the rain or sitting on a hosepipe. Finally, bottom left, a penguin dives into the icy waters of the Arctic or the Antarctic, or Paignton Zoo. This is just to remind us how funny penguins are. Although they can break your arm with their wings. Cameron Carter

from Mark Brophy
"In his contribution to the debate stirred up by Nigel de Jong's tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa, Ian 'I wanted to let him know I was there' Wright defines the essence of hypocrisy in the act of claiming not to be a hypocrite."

Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Sheffield United away, 1989-91
Red and white are the colours that you would most associate with Sheffield United. Yet this fluorescent yellow shirt would rank high in most Blades fans list of favourites. It was first worn in the second of two successive promotion seasons under the leadership of Dave Bassett, culminating in a return to the top flight for the first time in 14 years. The success was made all the sweeter by Wednesday going in the opposite direction. The final game of the season, with promotion depending on it, saw over 7,000 Blades fans make their way down the M1 to Leicester. A 5-2 win saw the Filbert Street pitch becoming an amorphous mass of yellow, red and white at the final whistle, celebrating a final-day promotion for the Blades and a final-day relegation back at Hillsborough.

United had worn Umbro kits for many seasons but nothing as extreme as this. Rumours at the time suggested it was Umbro's biggest selling club shirt. In the years since it has been imitated by other clubs and manufacturers, United themselves have twice had similar shirts, but none compare. The shirt still makes an appearance at major Blades matches as some sort of lucky omen, a reminder of happier days when promotion was achieved unexpectedly and on a shoestring. Unfortunately, middle-aged spread and 20-year-old football shirts are about as successful a combination as Sheffield United and play-off finals. Ian Rands

from Greg Armstrong
"According to Wikipedia, llie Dumitrescu has left his coaching role at the club at which he started his playing career, Steaua Bucharest, for somewhat bizarre reasons."

If you're ever browsing Ebay for old football annuals, look out for Lawrie McMenemy's Book of Soccer (Purnell Publishing, 1981) which shows how the then Southampton manager was decades ahead of his time in his views on the coaching of young players. In a section headed A Word To Parents and Coaches, Lawrie says: "Organised competition for eight- and nine-year olds is all very well but only a few will benefit from it. It's much better to get them playing in small groups." Lawrie goes on to expound at some length on the sort of coaching theories that Sir Trevor Brooking has been banging on about for years.

At this time, Lawrie was also endeavouring to change the nation's drinking habits by promoting the alcohol-free lager, Barbican ("It's great, man") – a campaign that was brought to an end shortly afterwards when he was charged with drink-driving. Such is often the fate of revolutionaries – although it could have been a plot concocted by the major breweries.

Long Players The Glorious History Of Football's Full Length Recordings

This Time – The Album by The England 1982 World Cup Squad (K-Tel International, 1982)
According to Kevin Keegan's sleevenotes, one England player's microphone had to be turned off because he was flat. The same was said about England's desperate qualifying campaign, and that sense of barely scraping through to the finals must have been felt keenly by K-Tel executives as they padded out this putrid release to an unfeasible 16 tracks, including the dreary hit title song, whose prophecy that England "will find a way" sums up their tactical approach to major tournaments ever since. Keegan's just about listenable hit Head Over Heels is followed by Glenn Hoddle warbling mendaciously that "we are the champions of the world" (maybe in a previous life, Glenn).

We can only pray that the master tapes to Bulldog Bobby by Mike Reid and the Minipops have long been lost or destroyed, while the fate that befell Hazel O'Connor's saxophonist Wesley Magoogan for recording Can't Get A Ticket For The World Cup – he cut off his own fingers in a chainsaw accident – could conceivably have been described by the aforementioned Hoddle as a karmic reward. Sneak in the 1970 team's Back Home, then the squad trawling out God Save The Queen and Land of Hope and Glory, slap in the Leyland Vehicles Brass Band playing every conceivable TV sports theme, and you've got yourself, the liner notes say, "a lasting souvenir of England's 1982 World Cup bid". Dull, slapdash and laughably incoherent. Ian Plenderleith (with thanks to Chris Horne for procuring this wonderful record)

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

 Christian Gross, Grasshoppers Panini Football 97
Christian Gross's brief spell in charge of VfB Stuttgart came to an end this week when he was sacked after just seven games. Ordinarily the dismissal of a Bundlesliga coach wouldn't get much coverage in the UK but Gross is still newsworthy as a result of a torrid ten months in charge at Spurs 12 years ago. No other overseas manager working in the Premier League has been the subject of as much ridicule.

Spurs' appointment of Gross as successor to Gerry Francis in November 1997 was surely influenced by what had taken place across north London over the previous year. Arsène Wenger was similarly obscure as far as the UK football press was concerned when he joined Arsenal in 1996 but he made an immediate impact and won the double in his second season. Gross's problems began with a clumsily-staged press conference when he brandished a Tube ticket and explained, to a puzzled silence, that it would be the "the ticket to my dreams".

Spurs were 17th when Gross took over and slipped into the bottom three after his first home game, a 6-1 defeat by Chelsea. The team rallied to finish 14th largely due to the contribution of the returning Jürgen Klinsmann, who scored nine goals in 15 games after joining in December; another star signing, Italian midfielder Nicola Berti, was a flop. While the team struggled, Gross was mocked in the press for his hesitant English and allegedly diffident manner. Covering the bald pate with a cap might have helped a bit. It would have been a relief to all concerned when he was dismissed in early September 1998 after two defeats in the first three games of the season. Gross went on to considerable success at home in Switzerland, winning four league titles with Basel while having notable runs in the Champions League and UEFA Cup. The man who appointed him, Alan Sugar, stepped down as Spurs chairman in 2001 and is now labouring under the delusion that he's a national treasure.

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