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17 December 2010 ~

Less than a week after awarding the World Cup to Qatar, Sepp Blatter has hinted that it could take place in January/February. This suggestion has been widely criticised but, as ever, Blatter seems impervious. After all, he will be 86 by 2022 and may no longer be with us, or know who he is – although he will still be president of FIFA.

Badge of the week ~ Happy Valley, Hong Kong
This is a missed opportunity. When you're a club called Happy Valley you have the perfect opportunity to express the joyous lifestyle hinted at in your name through the medium of visual art. According to a source close to the club, the executive tendered out the design assignment to three local artists. The first came back with a silkscreen entitled The Garden of Eternal Pleasures, depicting several naked couples in various attitudes of advanced relaxation: one lady is seen reclining on a grass verge while a satyr blows smoke into her ears, elsewhere a young man with a trumpet beckons the exulting cherubim while a nice-looking girl hangs about in a pear tree. It's a bit like how Center Parcs should be. This piece was rejected as too sensuous and the second artist's work, a daguerreotype of two postmen defecating on a glass table, was passed over for the same reason. Consequently, the third design, which arguably had the least immediate impact, was selected as the crest as there was no budget for readvertising the job. So a missed opportunity. If this image says "Happy Valley" to you, you might seriously consider getting out more. Cameron Carter

from Graham Forshaw
"The many interviews David Beckham did during the build-up to the World Cup vote showed that he is still hopelessly, teeth-grindingly incapable of completing a sentence without at least one 'You know'. Surely someone in the vast PR team who labour mightily on his behalf should have tried to sort it out? The problem may be that such people lack the authority to take the necessary steps, like cuffing him soundly after every interview or administering a small electric shock via a state-of-the-art, diamond-studded implant in the back of his head. Even turning a verbal tic into a physical one such as blinking rapidly or flicking an ear lobe (his own not his interviewers) would be, you know, an improvement."

Getting shirty Notable kits of yesteryear

Kaiserslautern home, 1997-98
Kaiserslautern's current kit caused a degree of uproar when it was revealed in the summer of 2009. They are currently sporting a figure-hugging burgundy number instead of the much more familiar bright red shirts that have accompanied the team on their ups and downs of the last two decades. Only recently returned to the top flight after gross financial mismanagement very nearly plunged them into the third division, it seems scarcely believable that 'Lautern were Bundesliga champions as recently as 1998.

Relegated in a dramatic finale to the 1995-96 season, a moment made famous by Andreas Brehme's televised tears after the decisive season-ending draw in Leverkusen, 'Lautern swept all before them in the second division and remained unbeaten in their Betzenberg stadium. Otto Rehhagel had formed a spirited and skilful team with a mix of experienced internationals and talented youngsters. They proceeded to surprise everyone by becoming the only team ever to win the top flight immediately after gaining promotion from the second division.

How times have changed – not only are such back-to-back titles unthinkable nowadays, but the same Crunchips-sponsored kit was worn in both championship seasons. The new dark red shirt represents a real break from tradition for the club that sees itself at the heart of the region, and the majority of fans will be glad to see the return of the "proper" club colours, even though they realise that success now means simply surviving in the Bundesliga. John van Laer

from Brad Woodhouse
"This season-ticket offer from Villa implies that games last an extra five minutes every half. Only Man Utd fans can expect that sort of extension."

from Jim Waterson
"Last weekend was the Belle & Sebastian-curated All Tomorrow's Parties which saw where a few thousand indiepop fans take over Butlins in Minehead.

It's always the best festival of the year but despite the presence of countless cult heroes, ranging from Edwyn Collins to Alex Kapranos, the unlikely star of the weekend was former Scottish international Pat Nevin. We knew his reputation for being 'the footballer with good music taste' but he also turned out to be a true gent.

After refereeing a five-a-side tournament where almost every team name was a song reference (sample game: Penny Lane v Kicking Just For Practice) and every player a skinny indie kid, he brought the house down on the Sunday night with a DJ set that included the Fire Engines, Orange Juice and the Fall's My New House. Afterwards he was willing to talk variously about the decline of Scottish football and the qualities of the new Camera Obscura album.

And the following day – presumably to win a tenner off someone – he slipped a needless reference to Brooklyn hipsters The Pains of Being Pure at Heart into his Radio 5 Live preview of Man Utd v Arsenal."

from Kenny Legg
"It seems that the Exeter City captain, Steve Tully, has been the victim of a bit of Wikipedia vandalism."

This week in history ~ Division Four, December 17, 1960


Peterborough United had moved up from the Midland League this season as replacements for Gateshead who had failed re-election. They were to finish as champions, two points ahead of Crystal Palace, while scoring a League record 134 goals (and conceding 65). Centre-forward Terry Bly contributed 52 goals, another divisional record that is unlikely to be broken.

Winger Peter McNamee got the only goal at Wrexham but Bly was to score 15 in Peterborough's next five matches. Bly had come to national prominence two years earlier as part of the Norwich side that reached the FA Cup semi-finals after beating Spurs and Man Utd. Surprisingly he never played at a higher level than Division Three and by 1964 had dropped into non-League with Grantham Town while still only 29.

One of Crystal Palace's goals in their 3-2 win at Accrington was scored by Johnny Byrne who was to be capped by England the following season while playing in Division Three. He was part of West Ham's Cup-winning teams of the mid-1960s and was in the preliminary squad of 28 for the 1966 World Cup. Palace's average crowd of 19,089 was higher than that of two Division One clubs, Blackpool and Preston.

Both of Accrington's goals came from George Hudson who was the division's second top scorer with 35, although his team only finished 19th. Accrington were controversially thrown out of the League in March 1962 over debts of £40,000. The club was wound up four years later; its successor, formed in 1968, regained a Football League place in 2006.

Chester finished bottom but were re-elected along with Exeter City, Barrow and Hartlepools United. The latter dropped the "s" from their name in 1968. Chester, contrary to this table, only added 'City' in 1983.

The other promotion issues were wrapped up with several weeks to spare. Northampton Town, who finished third, reached Division One by 1965-66 but were back at the fourth level three years later. Bradford Park Avenue took the final spot nine points ahead of fifth-placed York City. One of their goals in the 4-0 defeat of Workington was scored by Scottish winger Archie McHard (his real name) who only played two games for the club this season. The Workington team included central defender Keith Burkinshaw who managed Spurs to two FA Cups and a UEFA Cup in the 1980s.

Stickipedia A mine of information constructed from sticker cards

Nicolás Medina, Sunderland Merlin Premier League 2002
Middlesbrough's Julio Arca seems quite happy in the north-east, having settled down with someone from South Shields. But the compatriot who joined him in leaving Argentina for Sunderland in 2001 turned out to be one of the most disappointing signings in the club's recent history.

On announcing the transfer a confident Peter Reid described the 19-year-old Medina as "a complete midfield player" and dismissed the £3.5 million fee saying: "I think I have got value for money." But despite these high hopes Medina went straight into Sunderland's reserves – and never reappeared. Local rumours gathered pace: had he suffered under Reid's combative managerial style; or had the club even signed the right man – as they allegedly failed to do in the case of the 5ft 5ins Milton Núñez two years earlier? The official line was that the young Argentinian was too lightweight for the Premier League, but reserve regulars noted that any weight fluctuation looked more to do with a stodgy local diet than extensive time in the gym. Medina made only one FA Cup appearance (in which he was substituted) before his contract was cancelled in August 2004.

Shortly after leaving Sunderland, Medina was part of his country's gold medal-winning squad at the 2004 Olympics. After making a handful of appearances for four clubs in Argentina over the next five years, he joined Chilean side O'Higgins in 2009. Now aged 28 he has only played more than 20 matches in a season once in his career to date. It could all have been different if he'd found stability with a nice girl from Tyneside.

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