Friday, December 21, 2012

Festive Footballer's Names - A Christmas Club!

Yes, it's that time of year again!

Here are a list of well known footballer's with names that evoke the seasonal Christmas spirit!

Footballers with festive names

Starting XI:

Pepe Reindeer - Liverpool

Silent Zat Night - Bolton Wanderers
Ledley Good King Wenceslas - Tottenham Hotspur
Alex Wynter Wonderland - Crystal Palace
Evander Sno - NEC Nijmegen

Emmanuel Frimpong Merrily On Highbury - Arsenal
Jesús Navas González - Sevilla FC (right)
Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Kieron Dyer - QPR

Away in a Nile Ranger - Newcsatle United
Gabriel Agbonla One Horse Open Sleigh - Aston Villa
Demba Bah Humbug - Newcastle United


Sleigh Given - Aston Villa
Gylfi Sing Us A Song - Tottenham Hotspur
Juan Pablo Ángel Gabriel - Chivas USA
Thomas Mince Pies - Blackpool
Stefan Elfenberg - Former German International
Andy Christmas Carroll - Liverpool
Santa Klass Jan Huntelaar - Schalke 04


Alan Pardew And A Pear Tree - Newcastle United

Other Squad Members: 

Edwin Van Der Star - Former Dutch International
Matthias Rudolph - SV Babelsberg 03
John Sherry - Chelsea
Roque Santa Clause - Málaga CF
Àngel Rangel Zaragoza - Swansea City (right)
Theo Walnut - Arsenal
Noel Hunt - Reading
Chrismas Hat Jarvis - West Ham United
Santa Clause Cazorla - Arsenal
Jason Euell - AFC Wimbledon
Cracker - Real Madrid

Credit: Nick Potts/PA Archive/Press Association Images and Tony Marshall/EMPICS Sport

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The History of the Football Magazine - The Later Years!

In my last article 'The Early Years of the Football Magazine,' I outlined the birth of the football magazine from its inception up to the 1960's, where we saw the rise of publications such as "The Football Favourite," "Football Weekly," "FA Bulletin," "Voice of the Football Association," "Charles Buchan's Football Monthly" and "Soccer Star."

This week I am going to be concentrating on 'The Later Years of the Football Magazine,' from the mid 1960's to the present day.

We left 'The Early Years' following the merger of the "Soccer Star" magazine into "World Soccer" in the late 1960's.

"World Soccer" (right) remains the periodical authority on world football. It is part of the IPC media group, and a member of an umbrella group of similar titles published in other countries, such as 'Kicker' (Germany), 'A Bola' (Spain), and 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' (Italy).

"World Soccer" has always featured authoritative articles on the world football scene by writers such as Brian Glanville and John Ballard.

"World Soccer" is still going strong today and is in fact the worlds longest running football magazine, with a monthly circulation of around 52,000.

One of the next British magazines to show it's face was the "Soccer Review", ultimately to become the Football League Review (The Official Journal of the Football League) which started in August 1965. If you went to football matches from the late sixties and through to the mid seventies you will remember the insert from the Football League that came inside your clubs match day programme. However it did not appear in every football clubs programme. It was printed by Sport and Screen Productions in Leicester and was edited by Harry Brown. It qualifies as a magazine in its own right as it was always available either by post or from your newsagent right from launch. The Football League Review went through various name changes from "Soccer Review," to the "Football League Review," and finally the "League Football."

In 1967 we saw the launch of "Jimmy Hill's Football Weekly," (right) the first weekly football magazine in the world, if you consider the term 'magazine' as to incorporate a full colour glossy photographic front cover, even if the inside was black and white. Other weekly newspapers such as "Soccer Star" had been running before this time, but only with spot colour on the front page.

The JHFW magazine folded in 1970 when a large publishing group bought it as part of a portfolio - they went in for glossy, expensive publications but they soon decided that JHFW didn't fit their image and so it was ditched.

A former member of staff, Carol Davis, who worked on the JHFW magazine said "We never heard sight nor sound of Jimmy Hill during all the time I worked there - he simply lent his name to the mag and had no involvement; just another business venture for him I suppose." In 1968 Jimmy Hill became Head of Sport at London Weekend Television and rose to Deputy Controller of Programmes, before joining the BBC as presenter of "Match of the Day."

"Goal" magazine (right) joined the competition and was launched on 16 August 1968 with a "bash" at the Savoy, featuring Goal Girls and the assembled media, with Bobby Charlton signed up to do a weekly diary. It went on to became a successful magazine in the early 1970’s.

By 1971 "Goal" had weekly sales of 220,000, which gradually declined from that high point before the International Publishing Corporation (IPC) decided to incorporate it into IPC stablemate "Shoot!" magazine on 15 June 1974.

"Shoot!" magazines circulation had hit a high of 120,000 copies per week in 1996. It changed to a monthly magazine in 2001, selling in excess of 33,000 copies a month. It was relaunched as a weekly magazine in late February 2008 before publishers IPC sold off the brand in August 2008, a year short of it's 40th birthday.

"Shoot!" (right) was noted throughout the 1970's and 1980's for the quality of its news stories and articles on all aspects of football in England and Scotland. The magazine was also known for its 'Star Writer' features. Each season a selection of big-name First Division players were signed up to write columns, including Kevin Keegan, Bryan Robson and Charlie Nicholas. The magazine also featured the very popular Paul Trevillion's 'You Are The Ref' piece, which has since been afforded cult status and now appears in 'The Observer' newspaper sports supplement.

In 1974 "Charles Buchan's Football Monthly" closed and became "Football" and was maintained by IPC until 1995 when it was sold to Ken Bates at Chelsea.

"Match" magazine was launched on 6 September 1979, at a cover price of 25p. The original editor was Mel Bagnall. Kevin Keegan was the first cover star of  "Match" and supported the magazine with his column, 'Learn To Play The Keegan Way.' The first issue came with an 80-page sticker album and included columns by Tottenham star Ossie Ardiles, Manchester United's Steve Coppell and Nottingham Forest manager, Brian Clough.

On its launch in 1979, the magazine initially failed to catch the dominant circulation of its main weekly football rival, "Shoot!" In the mid 1990's the magazine was successfully revitalized and relaunched by Chris Hunt. Under his editorship "Match" was transformed, finally overtaking "Shoot" to become the biggest selling football title in Britain, with its weekly sales peaking at 242,000 during this period. "Match" continues to this date, but is more a comic than a magazine for grown ups.

No one really provided "World Soccer" with any monthly competition from 1974 until the launch of "When Saturday Comes" (WSC) in 1986. This magazine (right) started life as a 12-page photocopied fanzine in March 1986 on sale for 20p, and is still running today with a circulation of 21,000 at a price of £2.95.

There was an explosion of football fanzines in the mid 1980's. In January 1988 there were 22 fanzines in the "WSC" listing of like titles. A year later it was 121 and in January 1992 there were over 600. Many titles did not reach the list, but in 1995 it was estimated that in excess of 2,150 titles were available but only "WSC" survived as a mainstream football magazine.

"When Saturday Comes" aims to provide a voice for intelligent football supporters, offering both a serious and humorous view of the sport, covering all the topics that fans are likely to talk about, whether serious or trivial.

In the early-1990s the magazine began to take on advertising, and increased to 48 pages. WSC is still edited by Andy Lyons, who originally founded the magazine along with Mike Ticher.

"The Footballer" started in July 1989 and was sub titled the "Journal of Soccer History and Statistics". There were 36 editions of the magazine produced before it disappeared in June 1996.

"90 minutes" (right) arrived in October 1990 and stopped again on the 17 May 1997. It was started by Crystal Palace fan Dan Goldstein and remained independent until IPC took it over. It was launched at £1 an issue but was reduced to 65p quite quickly.

359 issues later when "90 minutes" ceased the editor in chief was Paul Hawksbee, now a presenter on TalkSPORT radio.
Dan Goldstein went on to write the "Rough Guide to Football" in 2000, which could be described as the only football book of its kind, in that it goes beyond the usual back page material to uncover the most amazing stories and unlikeliest personalities on planet football!

"Goalmouth" This monthly national football magazine was launched in May 1992 and lasted just one season. It was published by EPG Publishing and was edited by John Jackson. The price was £1.50 on launch and quickly went up to £1.75. This was reflected in the high quality paper used and the photographic reproduction work. It was a superior publication and it is a shame it failed after the one season.

"Four Four Two" magazine (right) was launched in September 1994 and targets an adult sports audience. It has now become the biggest-selling football magazine in the UK, with monthly sales figures in excess of 100,000. The magazine features a mixture of authoritative and serious-minded articles together with irreverent humour and nostalgia pieces. Another reason for its success is its ability to connect to the needs and feelings of the typical football fan.

Popular features include: 'Magic Moment,' 'Upfront,' 'They Said What?' 'Insider,' and 'My Perfect XI.'

"Four Four Two" is published by 'The Haymarket Media Group' and it launched its 200th edition back in February 2011.

The magazine has had an array of high-profile people amongst its regular contributors. The likes of James Richardson, who presented TV's Football Italia, Jonathan Wilson, football journalist and author of Inverting the Pyramid: A History of Football Tactics and Michel Salgado, footballer formerly of Real Madrid and currently playing for Blackburn Rovers are all currently involved. Previous contributors include: Henry Winter, Bobby Robson, Arsène Wenger, David Platt, the late Brian Clough and Robbie Savage.

For the grown up magazine readers we have still the big three: "World Soccer", "When Saturday Comes" and "Four Four Two" still slogging it out for world domination!

Friday, December 07, 2012

The History of the Football Magazine - The Early Years!

Prior to the saturation coverage of football by television and radio and the growth of the internet, other than results and match reports in newspapers, football magazines and annuals were the prime source of information for supporters. Many have long since disappeared, but a few still continue to enjoy success.

Here is a look back at the birth of the football magazine and those magazines that are still in existence!

The first black and white printed football specific newspaper in Britain was "Football" which ran from 4 October 18 until 11 April 1883.

From the late 1890's football clubs started producing their own programmes and newspapers started to produce football based editions.

Early Club specific publications included:

"The Official Programme: The Official Organ of Manchester City, Newton Heath, Broughton Rangers and Salford Club" from 3 September 1898 until 28 April 1900

"The Official Programme: The Only Official Organ of the Everton, L'pool, New B'ton, R'k Ferry and Tranmere Clubs" from 1 September 1898 until 29 April 1899

In the 20th Century we saw the arrival of the "Football Chronicle" which ran from 16 September 1911 to 25 April 1914 and continued after the war from 30 August 1919 to 19 December 1936.

"The Football Favourite" ran from 4 September 1920 to 30 April 1921, and continued as "The Football and Sports Favourite" (right) between 7 May 1921 and 30 March 1929.

In the 1930's the "Football Weekly" marketed as 'the great paper for the great game -every Wednesday 2d' was probably the best seller.

The question to address is what is the difference between newspaper and a magazine?

East Germany produced the earliest periodical that resembled a football magazine, "Die Fussball-Woche" (pictured right) meaning "Football Week" which was first published on 24 September 1923 in dessen Verlag. This is the earliest publication that resembles what we would now recognise as a magazine format.

All these pre-war periodicals were still missing the crucial element of colour photography.

The "FA Bulletin" the "Voice of the Football Association" commenced on the 20 September 1946 and would run monthly for the period of the football season. It changed to the "FA News" in August 1951 until 1956. It changed again to "FA Today" and finally ceased production in October 1979. It is hard to call this a generally available magazine, as it was sold on a subscription only basis.

If you want to add to the definition of a magazine in terms of using better quality paper and colour then the first football magazine in the UK was "Charles Buchan's Football Monthly."

This iconic magazine (pictured right) was launched in September 1951 and the world had its first modern style football magazine. It featured on its first cover, Blackpool's Sir Stanley Matthews. In its first year of existence the magazine sold 60,000 copies per month, peaking at around 150,000 in 1961-62.

The first original colour photographs appeared in the November 1957 edition. For many readers the pictures of players in CBFM were the only way supporters could see what an opposition player looked like, unless you had seen them appear at your own home ground.

A popular feature of CBFM was that unlike newspapers it carried news of every player transfer under the heading 'Transfer Market Moves.' Due to a lengthy 'lead time' in those days - the time between submission of a copy and actual publication some of the information provided could be anything up to three months old! However, this information detailed transfers of players between lower division and non-league clubs, for many readers it was 'news.' Such information was not available from any other source.

Other 'in vogue' CBFM features included: interviews with players, readers' letters and 'swap your programmes.' A page was also devoted to a feature on an amateur club, invariably a London-based or Home Counties club as the writer of this piece Norman Ackland was himself London-based, and was working on very limited expenses.

In the days before Sunday football became an established and integral part of many people's weekends, CBFM also had a feature called 'Fixtures Wanted' which was a double-page spread of small ads from teams all over the country asking for friendly games within a certain radius. Many of these teams boasted elaborate names such as Internazionale Celtic or Real Bexhill.

In the 1970's, as coverage of football on television increased and newspapers devoted more column inches to our National game, circulation of CBFM decreased rapidly until it folded in January 1974.

Charles Buchan's Football Monthly (CBFM) was without doubt the most recognised name of its genre. However it was not the only football magazine available during its 23 year tenure.

"Raich Carter's Soccer Star" (right) was launched a year after CBFM, on the 20th September 1952. Unlike CBFM, Raich Carter's Soccer Star was a weekly publication. Its unique selling point was that it featured different team photographs every week, on the front and back cover. Though the cover was glossy, the pages inside were matt and did not carry colour photographs until the late 1960's.

The Raich Carter logo was dropped in the summer of 1955 and the the name was shortened to "Soccer Star."

A regular contributor to Soccer Star was the football writer and historian Jack Rollin, who later launched and edited "The Rothmans Football Yearbook."

Every week Soccer Star carried results, teams and attendances for every game in England and Scotland. Despite the fact that this information was two or three weeks old, it still suggested immediacy as at the time no other newspaper or magazine conveyed such detailed statistics.

Soccer Star had a policy of heavily featuring lower division and non-league football in its publication, something that is almost alien to modern day newspapers and
magazines, that tend to focus primarily on top-flight football. Refreshing as this was, it also contributed in part to its downfall, when the requirement of the majority of readers was exactly that - top-flight and international football!
Like CBFM, Soccer Star suffered from poor sales in the late 1960's and as a result it merged into "World Soccer" magazine on 19 June 1970.

"World Soccer" (pictured right) was the world's second oldest monthly football magazine when it started in October 1960 and is today the worlds longest running football magazine as it is still being published by IPC, with a monthly circulation today of around 52,000.

Next week I will continue with this article as I write  features on some other football magazines from varying generations, that you may also recognise including: "Shoot," "Match," "Soccer Review," "FourFourTwo," and "When Saturday Comes."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Babe Of The Month - Merry Christmas/Fröhe Weihnachten/Joyeux Noël/Feliz Navidad/Buon Natale/Feliz Natal/Wesołych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia

 Kate dressed in a sexy festive Christmas outfit        ....and wearing a South London and Proud t-shirt

Kate Fletcher has literally flown the nest!

Originally Kate was a cheerleader for 'The Gully Girls' the cheerleading team of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club. However a month ago she defected to join 'The Crystals,' the cheerleaders of bitter rivals Crystal Palace Football Club.

And in a ironic twist of fate the singer/songwriter/actress and dancer joins her sister Kim, already a member of 'The Crystals' in her first performance of the season today (Saturday 1st December), in front of the Albion fans she used to wow, as Crystal Palace take on Brighton at Selhurst Park.

It echoes former Albion player Glenn Murray who made the trip up the A23 last year to join Palace, and then scored on his return a few months later, as 'The Eagles' became the first team to beat 'The Seagulls' at home in the league since they moved to their new £100m stadium in Falmer.

The 20 year-old's switch has propelled her into the spotlight much like a new star signing might expect! The move has created much discussion on Club messageboards and she has been interviewed by local newspapers in both Croydon and Sussex, who have been following the story in some detail.

'The Crystals' have added some much-needed vibrancy, glamour and pizazz to the Selhurst Park match day experience since they made their debut in December 2010. They help promote the Club through their media work, and last July they created their own dance routine to Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen's monster hit 'Call Me Maybe.' Their second video released in October sees the cheerleaders dancing to PSY’s number one hit 'Gangnam Style' in and around Crystal Palace’s stadium, and are joined in some scenes by the club’s mascot. Both videos proved to be smash hits on YouTube and made 'The Crystals' overnight internet sensations .

It will be no surprise if I tell you that the girls have shot a Christmas video, a cover of Marie Carey's 'All I Want for Christmas Is You,' which you can watch exclusively here!

Find out more about the 'The Crystals' on Facebook and Twitter

* For Information/bookings contact

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wilfried Zaha - 'The Boy Wonder'

Dazet Wilfried Armel Zaha, better known as Wilf Zaha is currently the hottest young star in British football. As a Crystal Palace supporter I am running out of superlatives to describe England's most recently capped international player.

Today the Crystal Palace forward/winger won the ‘Football League Young Player of the Month’ award for October. Zaha scored his first two goals of the season against Wolves on the 2nd October 2012. He then scored a further two goals in his next game, four days later, in a 4–3 win over Burnley. Palace remained unbeaten in October and this included a victory at then table-toppers Leicester who had won all five of their home games before Palace spoiled the party, winning 2-1 at The Walkers Stadium. Palace are in fact unbeaten in the league since 25th August. Zaha’s form has been a major factor in the Club’s successful start to the season, and many opposition managers have complemented the recently turned 20 year-old on some magical displays. 

Crystal Palace boss Ian Holloway presents Wilf Zaha with his award.

His pace, footwork, balance and tricks are breathtaking, but this season he has stepped up his game to another level. His ability to beat players has never been in doubt and he regularly leaves opposition full-backs on their back sides. But this season he has worked on his all-round game and as a result his fitness, work rate, defensive duties, and his ability to pick a pass or take on a player have improved ten-fold. Added to the fact that he is scoring goals as well - this all contributes to making him one of the most exciting player to watch in British football. The way Palace are set-up to play this season, using two wingers to attack at pace, often drawing defenders out of position and creating time and space for team-mates has made Crystal Palace an exciting team to watch this season, something the Selhurst Park faithful have not witnessed for many years!

Zaha and team-mate Yannick Bolasie are the protagonists in this football feast with all the trimmings now being served up at ‘The Palace.’ Their direct attacking style of play is electric and although outstanding in their own individual ways, it is as a partnership that they seem to have flourished, often swapping wings in a game or both attacking down the same flank, causing chaos as the opposition are left chasing shadows or hauling them to the ground in a foolhardy attempt to stop them!
Wilf’s form during the October also contributed to him becoming the first Championship outfield player to be called up by England since Jay Bothroyd in 2010.

Speaking ten days ago BBC Sport pundit Mark Bright, who played for Palace and now helps out as a coach at the club said of Wilfried Zaha: "He is the biggest talent to emerge from Crystal Palace since Arsenal legend Ian Wright. In my opinion, Wilfried is the most exciting player outside the Premier League," Bright went on: "He played in the League Cup last season at Manchester United. Palace won with a Darren Ambrose screamer and Wilfried gave Rafael such a torrid time that they took him off."

Leon Osman, who made his England debut in the same match as Wilf against Sweden this month said of Zaha: "We have all been hearing about him for a year or so now. He came and trained on Monday morning and looked the real deal. He was direct, skilful and committing people."

His rise has not been an overnight one, but a gradual nurturing of a player with undoubted talent. However many players show talent at an early age but their careers often stagnate or go backwards. Some players are greedy, some are badly advised and as a result they leave at the wrong time or join the wrong club, but Wilf is an classic example of how to nurture talent correctly.

Zaha was born in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast and moved to South London with his family aged four, but has been at Crystal Palace FC since the age of 12.

Zaha was given his professional debut aged 17, making a substitute appearance at home to Cardiff City on 27th March 2010 by then caretaker manager Paul Hart.
Two years later, in March 2012, Zaha was voted 'The Football League's Young Player of the Year.'

Wilf follows in a long line of young players to roll off the CPFC academy production line. There are currently four players plying their trade in the Premier League who graduated through the Palace academy. No doubt Zaha wants to join the likes of Victor Moses at Chelsea, Ben Watson at Wigan, Nathaniel Clyne at Southampton and Wayne Routledge at Swansea in the top flight, but it is more a question of when rather than if, and with whom?

The vultures are circling, but Palace are currently top of the Championship and they find themselves in with a real opportunity of securing top flight football next season. Taking into account the odd dip in form most teams suffer at some stage of a season, along with a bit of luck such as keeping the squad fit and injury free, Palace are in a great position to dictate the future of their ‘wing wizard.’ Keeping hold of Zaha in January is the first step in maintaining a steady platform in the Club’s effort to reach English football’s top tier for the first time since the 2004/05 season.

EPL football would generate the club over £60m, even if they came straight back down, and the sale of Zaha in the region of £15-20m. But Palace, even with £15m burning a hole in their pocket could not buy a replacement for Zaha, as there is no player more gifted in the country to play his role in the team. Take £15m+ in January and risk missing out on a £60m+ windfall, or keep Wilf untill the summer thus improving the chance of that windfall becoming a reality and then sell the ‘boy wonder,’ assuming he chooses to simply a no brainer!

Even if Palace do not make it to the Premier League, nobody at the Club or any Palace fan would begrudge the youngster the opportunity to grace the stage of  Europe’s top domestic league. But Wilf is a local lad who has even admitted he misses ‘home’ when on international duty. His home being the structure in place at Palace to advise him, educate him, coach him and help him keep his feet firmly on the ground. By doing this Wilf can focus on achieving his personal and professional goals under the watchful guidance of the owners, management and his team-mates, who all play their part in contributing to his love affair with ‘The Eagles.’

Players of the calibre of Wilfried Zaha don’t come around very often, and it is important that the Club use him as a stepping stone to a brighter future and Wilf does likewise. It is imperative that Wilf continues to learn his trade while at Palace, so that when he does fly ‘The Eagle’s Nest’ he is ready both mentally and physically for what lies ahead.

We are witnessing the development of a player that may one day reach the heights of........well let’s just wait and see, and enjoy the moment!

Wilfried Zaha, remember the name!

Friday, November 16, 2012

International Caps and Historical Facts!

In Britain 'caps' are awarded to players making international appearances for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is a tradition dating back to the origins of the Football League in the Victorian age, when during games players routinely wore caps denoting club colours. The concept of each team wearing a set of matching shirts had not been universally adopted.
When the first international match took place in 1872 players wore caps, as was the norm. When outfield players ceased to wear caps some years later, representing one's country at football continued to be marked by the symbolic presentation of a cap.
The first caps were awarded to the players who participated in the Scotland v England international on 31st March 1886 in Glasgow.

Peter Shilton is the most capped England player of all time. The goalkeeper holds the record after playing 125 games for his country, including fifteen as captain. His last appearance was at the 1990 World Cup finals in Italy.

Six England players are centurions with 100 caps or more. As well as Shilton they are Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Billy Wright, David Beckham and most recently Steven Gerrard (right).

Of Billy Wright's 105 appearances for England, he captained the side on 91 occasions.

Ahmed Hassan (born 2 May 1975 in Maghagha, Egypt) is the most capped international male footballer in history with 184 appearances for Egypt.

On 30th May 2006, Theo Walcott became the youngest player to make his England debut, when he came on as a substitute against Hungary at the age of 17 years and 75 days.

The youngest player to be awarded a cap for Wales is Gareth Bale, (then of Southampton), who on 27th May 2006, aged 16 years and 315 days appeared as a substitute against Trinidad & Tobago.

The youngest British player ever to be awarded a full cap is Norman Whiteside who was 17 years and 41 days old when he made his debut for Northern Ireland against Yugoslavia on 17th June 1982 at the World Cup finals. He still holds the record as the youngest player to take part in a World Cup final tournament.

The oldest player to participate in a World Cup finals tournament was Cameroon's Roger Milla, who was 42 years and 39 days at the 1994 finals held in the USA. Cameroon were knocked out in the group stages, however Milla (right) scored a goal against Russia, setting a record as the oldest goalscorer in a World Cup finals match.

The oldest player to receive his first England cap is Alexander Morten, a goalkeeper with Crystal Palace, who was 41 years and 113 days old when he kept goal against Scotland on 6th March 1873.

The oldest player to have been capped by England is Sir Stanley Matthews, who was 42 years and 103 days old when he played against Denmark on 15th May 1957.

Jack Cock (Huddersfield Town) was the first Cornishman to be capped for England in 1920. Cock went on to become a popular variety star and also appeared in a number of British films.

The first Fourth Division player to win an international cap was Vic Rouse (Crystal Palace) for Wales against N.Ireland in 1959.

Johnny Byrne (right) won his first cap for England in 1962, while paying for Crystal Palace in the Third Division. Tommy Lawton (Notts County), Reg Matthews (Coventry), Peter Taylor (Crystal Palace) and Steve Bull (Wolves) also gained England caps while playing their football in the Third Division.

Cecil Moore (Sheffield Utd) was capped for Norther Ireland in 1949, emigrated to America, and appeared for the USA against England in 1953.

Johnny Carey (Manchester United, 1938-53) won 29 caps for the Republic of Ireland and seven for Northern Ireland.

Kevin Keegan was awarded his first England cap against Wales on 15th November 1972. His second cap was also against Wales (24th January 1973), as was his third (11th May 1974). He remains the only player to have played his first three games for England against the same opposition.

Gary Howlett (Brighton) travelled to the other side of the world to earn his first international cap and played for only 19 minutes. On the 3rd June 1984, Howlett was named as a substitute for the Republic of Ireland against China which was taking place in Sapporo, Japan,. Nineteen minutes from time he came on, but was never chosen to play for the Republic again.

James Milner (right) with 46 appearances and nine goals is the most capped England Under-21 International of all-time.

The only player to win both semi-professional and full caps for England is Steve Guppy. Guppy was chosen for the England semi-professional team while playing for Wycombe Wanderers in the Conference in 1989/90 and in 1999, when at Leicester City, he won his first and only cap for England against Belguim at the Stadium of Light.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012/13 - The npower Championship. Update!

With one-third of the 2012/13 football season gone, I thought I would take this opportunity to update you all on my progress in this seasons Phones 4u sponsored Championship Fantasy Football league. In doing so I will also highlight any players that have shone, some that have had shockers and some unexpected performances whether good, bad or indifferent among all the players involved!

In August I selected eleven players from the second tier of English football that I felt would excel for their respective clubs this season, as I pitted my wits against friends and football fans around the country, in a 'foolish' attempt to convince myself that my knowledge of Championship football was equal to or maybe even superior to that of other football fans.

As the months have gone on, I have delved in and out of the transfer market as players have lost form, moved clubs or suffered injury.

A lot was expected of some players this season, some have delivered whilst others have failed. There are a lot of 'experienced' players in the Championship such as those among the ranks of the clubs relegated from the Premier League last season, namely Blackburn, Bolton and Wolves. I am thinking of the likes of Paul Robinson, Roger Johnson, Danny Murphy, Kevin Doyle and Kevin Davies. However of the three relegated clubs only Blackburn have been able to sustain some consistent form. Part of the reason for this has been down to their £8 million pre-season acquisition of Jordan Rhodes, who has found the back of the net eight times so far this season. Both Wolves and Bolton have struggled and sit 13th and 17th respectively in the Championship, as I speak.

Despite Bolton's woes which have included a change of manager, with Crystal Palace playing legend Dougie Freedman leaving the South London Club and taking over from Owen Coyle at the Reebok, Chris Eagles has been a hit this season and has the second highest points tally for a midfielder, behind Blackpool's Tom Ince. Ince and Palace's phenomenally talented Wilfred Zaha are without doubt the most exciting players to watch right now in the Championship. Zaha's wing wizardry has helped Palace to the top of the league, while Ince has contributed massively to Blackpool's solid start to the season with 8 goals and 6 assists. In an ironic twist Palace lured Blackpool boss Ian Holloway to Selhurst Park following the loss of Freedman, and he began his tenure last Tuesday with a 5-0 thumping of Ipswich. Glenn Murray was the hat-rick hero and his 13 league goals has been another reason for their lofty league position.

The Championship's top striker is Burnley's Charlie Austin. The 23 year-old hit man has bagged an astonishing 17 league goals in just 14 appearances for the Clarets, who sit just one place outside a play-off spot. If Burnley can tighten up defensively they may well be in with a shout this season.

Talking of defence, Brighton have conceded only 11 goals in their opening 15 matches and statistically they currently have the best goalkeeper in Tomasz Kuszczak, and they posses the highest scoring defenders in this seasons fantasy football competition. Salter, Bridge and Greer have scored 60 points between them and Brighton currently lie 8th in the league.

Of the clubs promoted from League One last season, namely Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield Town, only Huddersfield have started well and currently lie in 7th place. Charlton currently lie 19th and Sheffield Wednesday 20th.

So how has all this reflected on my Championship fantasy football team since I selected it back in August?

In August my team was as follows:

Goalkeeper: Paddy Kenny (Leeds).

Defenders - Wes Morgan (Leicester), Anthony Gardner (Sheff Wed), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich), Curtis Davies (Birmingham).

Midfielders - Chris Burke (Birmingham), Tom Ince (Blackpool) Wilf Zaha(Crystal Palace).

Strikers - Jordan Rhodes (Huddersfield, pictured right), Simon Cox (Forest), Marlon Harewood (Barnsley).

I have made seven transfers since the campaign kicked-off in August. First out the door was striker Stephen Fletcher who moved from Wolves to Premier league side Sunderland before a ball had been kicked. Then I replaced ex-Palace defender Anthony Gardner who wasn't getting a look in at Hillsborough, with Stephen Crainey who's Blackpool side were flying high early doors. Since then Crainey has only kept one clean sheet in eleven.  Ipswich's Aaron Cresswell was next to get the chop as his Ipswich team started and continue to have an awful season. Ipswich currently sit bottom of the league having conceded 31 goals in just 15 league games and have a goal difference of -20. I replaced Cresswell early in the campaign with Hull's Abdoulaye Faye, but his return has not been great, just one clean sheet in seven games, although he has netted twice. Next to go was Curtis Davies as his Birmingham side had real trouble keeping clean sheets, just two in 12 games before I let him go. To fill the defensive gap left by Davies I brought in another ex-Palace player Cardiff's Mark Hudson.

So three of my first four changes changes were all defenders, in what would be comfortably described as a real defensive headache if I were using footballing terminology. I certainly made a mess when I picked my back four in August!

Next out was Marlon Harewood who I genuinely believed would get a regular run out could bag a few goals at this level. Oh how wrong I was. Not only was he not scoring goals, he wasn't often in the Barnsley starting XI. I brought in Brighton's Ashley Barnes to replace him and Charlie Austin to replace Simon Cox. Cox was getting regular games at Forest but could not find the onion bag. After a return of one goal and two assists in eight games he had to go! With hindsight I should have had Austin in my team about ten games earlier.

My most recent change was my first in midfield. Birmingham's Chris Burke was having a 'mare' and although I persisted with him for eleven games neither he nor his side were showing signs of an up turn in their fortunes. One goal and one assist says it all. In his place I brought in the exciting Wolves midfielder Bakary Sako. The French under-21 international was a deadline day signing by Wolves boss Stale Solbakken and he scored in his first game after I signed him.......nice one Bakary!

It's not been a great opening three months for me, particularly compared to this stage last season when I had the likes of Rickie Lambert, Rob Earnshaw, Robert Snodgrass and Kevin Nolan tearing up defences left right and centre. However this season the league is much more competitive. There are no runaway leaders and only 7 points separate the top 10 teams. They are a lot of goals being scored in the Championship this season and not a lot of clean sheets being kept. It is apparent that the strikers certainly have the upper hand over the defenders as we go into the second third of the season. Finding a a decent back four and goalkeeper could be the key to winning this competition!

As it stands today my current team is as follows:

Goalkeeper: Paddy Kenny (Leeds).

Defenders - Wes Morgan (Leicester), Stephen Crainey (Blackpool), Abdoulaye Faye (Hull), Mark Hudson (Cardiff).

Midfielders - Bakary Sako (Wolves, pictured right), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Wilf Zaha (Crystal Palace).

Strikers - Jordan Rhodes (Blackburn), Ashley Barnes (Brighton), Charlie Austin (Burnley).

I am 15,548th overall in the whole competition, 17th of 28 players in the 'Holmesdale Radio' private league, 237th of 449 in the 'Official Crystal Palace FC' private league and 23rd of 39 in the '' private league.

Until next time............good luck!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Babe of the Month - There's Always Hope!

American beauty Hope Solo on hand to warm you up on a cold winter's night!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Don't blame it on the Weatherman!

There were farcical scenes last week when England’s World Cup qualifier against Poland was postponed due to torrential rain in Warsaw. Officials ignored the weather forecasts and refused to close the retractable roof on the £400million state-of-the-art National Stadium, which had been upgraded significantly prior to the UEFA European Championships last Summer, which were co-hosted by Poland and the Ukraine.

The deluge of rain that followed left the playing surface under pools of water and ultimately unplayable. However it wasn’t until 45 minutes after the scheduled kick-off time before the players, the fans in the stadium and the millions watching on television at home were officially informed of the postponement of England’s World Cup qualifier against Poland.

A Polish fan runs onto the flooded Warsaw pitch, as a steward goes flying!

Matches have been postponed for every imaginable reason - and a few unimaginable ones - but by far the main reason is the weather. So I decided to take a look back in time at past matches where the weather has intervened and forced the postponement of games.

The referee has sole responsibility for judging if a pitch is playable - in particular if it is safe for the participants to play on - though with modern undersoil heating it's not always because the pitch is frozen and unplayable that forces the postponement. Unsafe terraces/stands or approaches to the ground will also force a postponement, the police and local authority also having responsibility in these areas.

High winds occasionally force a match to be called off. Unusual, but a recent example was the Tranmere v Rochdale fixture that should have been played on Boxing Day 2011, but was called off after high winds damaged the Prenton Park stadium roof causing public safety concerns.

On 28th December 2010 and 1st Jan 2011 Sheffield Wednesday were due to play Yeovil and Peterborough respectively. However Sheffield City Council deemed that both matches could not take place because of frozen and burst pipes which served the toilets and refreshment kiosks. The Safety Advisory Group, chaired by Sheffield City Council recommended no spectators be admitted until all repairs were carried out, and the club's maintenance team was unable to carry out these repairs in the sub-zero temperatures, as further bursts were anticipated when the thaw began.

Carlisle United’s Brunton Park is a League ground prone to flooding from a nearby river, and the consequences are severe for the clubs affected by such flooding. Its not just a case of letting the ground dry but specialist cleaning is needed because of the amount of sludge left behind which is usually contaminated with raw sewage. During the floods of 2005 'Billy the fish' was spotted and rescued from the goalmouth at the Warwick Road End of Brunton Park, just as huge industrial pumps were about to be switched on to start clearing the water off the pitch. He was as deemed a lucky mascot as he had overseen the club’s rise from the Conference to League One in a five year period. Billy died in 2010.

'Billy the fish' with Emma Story at Brunton Park, after the floods of Jan 2005

The most bizarre postponement although not weather related goes to the Torquay v Portsmouth Worthington Cup First Round fixture which was due to be played at Plainmoor on Wednesday 11th August 1999. It was the date of a total eclipse of the sun which was visible in the Torquay area, the first in Britain since 1927. Despite the fact that the date and location of the eclipse was probably known about for hundreds of years the local police left it until shortly before the match to request a postponement. They decided that they didn't have the manpower to police both the match and the influx of visitors expected in the area to witness the eclipse. They couldn't put off the eclipse so a postponement of the match it was! The fixture was eventually played on Tuesday 17th August 1999.

On 21st November 1979 England were due to host Bulgaria in a European Championship qualifier at Wembley, but the match was postponed on the evening of the match due to heavy fog. It was played 24 hours later and England won 2-0, with goals by Dave Watson and Glenn Hoddle.

The British record for postponements of a single fixture, not surprisingly, is for a match in the 'Arctic' north of the country. The Scottish Cup 2nd Round tie between Inverness Thistle and Falkirk was scheduled to be played on the 6th January 1979. However after 29 postponements it was finally played on the 22nd February 1979, with Falkirk winning 4-0 at the 30th attempt to stage the match. Three days later Falkirk lost 1-0 at Dundee in the first attempt to stage the Third Round tie!

Again not weather related, another bizarre situation causing the postponement of not one but three matches came about at Anfield, when a Victorian sewer under Anfield's Kop end collapsed. Liverpool had to play their first three Division One matches of the 1987/88 season all away from home, while repairs were made. It delayed the home debut of one of Liverpool's legendary players - John Barnes - who eventually made a scoring home debut in a 2-0 win against Oxford United on Saturday 12th September 1987.

John Barnes making his 'delayed' debut for Liverpool against Oxford Utd in 1987

Some fixtures are jinxed. The Division One match between Spurs and eventual champions Everton at White Hart Lane in 1969/70 was one of them. The match was originally scheduled for Saturday 29th November 1969, but a heavy fall of snow just before kick-off time forced a postponement. The re-scheduled date was Wednesday 17th December and although the match started it only lasted 30 minutes, before being abandoned when a fault at a sub-station caused floodlight failure. Wednesday 7th January 1970 was the next date pencilled in for the fixture, but that one didn't happen either when Spurs had to play an FA Cup replay that same evening. The game was finally played on Wednesday 11th March after a near three month wait, and three different match programmes having been printed.

By far the worst winter to affect football was in the 1962/63 season when a 'big freeze' decimated football in this country for three months with hundreds of matches being called off or abandoned. Only three FA Cup third round ties were played on the scheduled date, the 5th January 1963, with the last tie in that round being played on 11th March. The Lincoln v Coventry tie was called off 15 times and fourteen of the other ties suffered ten or more postponements! From 8th December, when they beat Spurs 1-0, to 16th February when they lost 3-2 at Arsenal, Bolton Wanderers did not play a single competitive match.

Various ideas were tried to beat the big freeze, however, even if a pitch was made playable the terraces and surrounds to the ground were often left treacherous, forcing a postponement. It wasn't until 16th March - nearly three months after the big freeze started - when a complete programme of football was played again. The season was eventually extended to the end of May.

The 1946/47 season - the first post-war League season - was another decimated by a bitter winter. Well over one hundred League matches were postponed and it wasn't until mid-June, seven weeks after the Cup Final was played, that the season finally came to an end. With no floodlights re-arranged matches were played on midweek afternoons, but with coal stocks low and industry almost at a standstill the Government wanted to stop midweek football, to prevent absenteeism from work by the supporters.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Double Bubble at the Palace as The Eagles soar!

Crystal Palace are celebrating a double dose of recognition after Dougie Freedman and Glenn Murray picked up the nPower 'Championship Manager' and 'Player of the Month' awards for September 2012.

Murray & Freedman with their respective awards for September

Following four straight defeats in August, Crystal Palace finished September and started October like a team possessed! Four wins and a draw in September saw The Eagles' gaffer Dougie Freedman win the 'Manager of the Month' award, as his side topped the form charts for the month of September. Freedman led the Eagles to impressive wins away at Charlton and Bolton and recorded home successes against Sheffield Wednesday and Cardiff, whilst drawing with Nottingham Forest. Freedman beat Cardiff's Malkay Mackay and Leicester's Nigel Pearson to win the award.

In summary Freedman told "It's a great personal achievement for myself, but a lot of credit has got to go to the whole club. We've come together after a very difficult start to the season, and regrouped and got a few players in the door and since then the results have turned."

A driving force behind this fine run was the clinical form of Glenn Murray. The ex-Rochdale striker bagged six goals in September, four of them slotted calmly home from the penalty spot, and is a deserving winner of the 'Player of the Month' award.

Murray beat off competition from Brighton's Bruno Saltor and Leicester's Wes Morgan. to win the award. With more support up front this season from wingers Wilfried Zaha and Yannick Bolasie, Murray's natural link-up play and finishing had a crucial impact in his September six goal tally.

Murray buries a penalty as Palace storm back from 2-0 down to beat Cardiff 3-2

On his award, Glenn said: "I’m really pleased, obviously we’ve had a really great month as a team so it’s very nice to be awarded. The highlight of the month for me would be scoring the winner against Bolton, even though it was a penalty it was an important goal for us."

Freedman added: "It’s good for Glenn and he fully deserves it As an ex-centre forward I know it’s a very difficult job he does. He’s led the line well and played very smart, and he’s been working on his game a lot at the training ground, so he fully deserves all the credit he gets right now."

The two awards are determined by two separate expert panels. The 'Manager of the Month' award is decided by former Charlton Athletic manager Alan Curbishley, Football League chief operating officer Andy Williamson, League Managers Association deputy CEO Olaf Dixon and npower sponsorship manager Emma Collins. The 'Player of the Month' panel sees Emma Collins joined by Wolves legend Don Goodman, BBC Sport’s Mark Clemmit and The Football League’s head of communications, John Nagle.

Npower sponsorship Manager Emma Collins added: "It’s great to see a young manager doing so well, so we’re delighted to be giving the npower Football League Championship 'Manager of the Month' award to Dougie. Crystal Palace’s form in September was the best in the league, so it was one of our easier decisions."

Since September Crystal Palace have continued there good form by winning at Wolves and beating Burnley 4-3 in a thriller at Selhurst Park last Saturday.

On current form Crystal Palace are without doubt South London's number one team!

Monday, October 08, 2012

The Best Selling Replica Club Shirts in the World

A German sport market research company, has released a very interesting survey on the world’s best selling club football shirts.

Dr Rohlmann’s and his PR Marketing team focused on the sales period 2007/8 to 2011/12 inclusive, in order to have the most accurate overview.

Not suprisingly the survey found that Manchester United and Real Madrid are the two clubs selling the most replica shirts with both United and Madrid averaging 1.4million shirts sales globally each year in the past five years !

As the graphic below shows, Barcelona are No.3 on the sales list (Nike, average 1.15m sales a year) followed by Chelsea in fourth place (adidas, 910,000). The top ten also includes Bayern Munich (adidas), Liverpool (adidas during the research period, now Warrior), Arsenal (Nike), Juventus (Nike), Inter Milan (Nike) and AC Milan (adidas).

Chelsea are the most significant ‘climbers’ since detailed market statistics were last published by this site two years ago. They were adidas’s joint-second best sellers with Liverpool and Bayern Munich two years ago, but have moved clear into second place for adidas – and fourth overall – now!

Dr Rohlmann pointed out that "Oscillations are normal because any sporting success or lack of success drives shirt sales, sometimes up, sometimes down, as does the acquisition or sale of particular stars."
For example, in the case of Chelsea, there was a 2011/12 uplift, undoubtedly as a result of their success in the UEFA Champions League. A second example of this would be at Bayern Munich. Bayern sold between 1million and 1.5million replica kit shirts in 2011/12, when Bayern reached the Champions League final (against Chelsea), which was played in their own stadium in their home city of Munich. A third and final example of success increasing shirt sales could be allied to Olympique Marseille. Their average replica shirt sales over the last five seasons is about 350,000 per year. But if you refer exclusively to the 2009/10 season, when they won the French championship, adidas sold nearly 500,000 replica shirts."

Premier League winners Manchester City sold somewhere just over 250,000, but their five-year average is 175,000 per year – sufficient only to place them 17th in Europe.

However, it is important to remember the results of the survey are based solely on the the volume of replica shirts sold and does not include other official club merchandise, such as training kit, jackets, bags, caps, towels, calenders e.t.c.

If the survey were to include all licensed merchandise sold by football clubs, then Liverpool would be ahead of Real Madrid. Liverpool are adidas’s top-selling team in terms of sales of overall merchandise.

The official Manchester United Investor Relations website says that "over five million items of Manchester United (Nike) branded licensed products were sold in the last year, including over two million Manchester United jerseys." Dr Rohlmann says that for 40 per cent of all United merchandise to be shirts "is extremely high compared to other top European football clubs."

The market research looked in particular at the major European leagues (La Liga, Barclays Premier League, Serie A TIM, Ligue 1 Orange, Bundesliga). However the PR marketing team also looked into big clubs in "less powerful leagues" to assess their value. The conclusion was that no other club in any other European league came close to matching the sales of the top ten listed clubs.

First and foremost, the richest football clubs have the marketing power to create, market and sell their football shirts. Secondly, the power of the domestic league is also a crucial element.

Out of the top 10 teams, four came from the English Premier League: Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, three from Seria A: Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus, two from La Liga: FC Barcelona and Real Madrid and one from the Bundesliga: Bayern Munich.

Galatasaray and Fenerbahce, 'the big hitters' of the Turkish Super Lig, both adidas teams, have a huge amount of local and global fans. However their replica shirts sales would amount to a lesser number than the 10th highest ranked club. Another element to consider is the amount of counterfeit clothing products coming out of from Asia and Turkey. This has a very damaging effect on club sales of official merchandise in the less glamorous and affluent leagues.

A 'big' club like Ajax Amsterdam, an adidas club, in a 'small' league like the Dutch Eredivisie league might expect to sell 100,000 shirts and probably fewer in most seasons. Glasgow Celtic, a Nike club are believed to be the biggest sellers among Scotland’s clubs, with 'good year' sales at the lower end of the top 10, ie: several hundred thousand per year, many of them overseas in North America, Canada and Australia. This is still somewhat less than the likes of AC Milan or Inter which sell an average of 350,000 to 425,000 units per calender year.

Source: Dr Peter Rohlmann,  and

When it comes to sporting the name of their favourite Premier League player on the back of a replica shirt, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is officially the most popular choice of fans around the world.

Global sales data from Sporting iD, who determined the top five by the number of player names sold for official replica shirts, said it was a close race for the top three positions.

Rooney edged out Liverpool's Steven Gerrard and Chelsea frontman Fernando Torres, Cristiano Ronaldo, formerly with Manchester United and now with Real Madrid, is the fourth most popular over the 20 seasons of the Premier League, with Chelsea's Frank Lampard fifth.

Sporting iD global sales and marketing director Rob Thayne said: "We first started producing Rooney's official player identity in 2002, after he made his professional debut with Everton at the age of 16. We then had to expand that production greatly following his move to Manchester United in the summer of 2004. But Rooney truly went into a league of his own in 2007 when Ruud van Nistelrooy vacated the Manchester United number 10 shirt, and there is a global demand that shows no sign of abating."

Rooney is the first United player to lead the list since Cristiano Ronaldo in the 2007/08 season. But one name could have beaten Rooney to the award. "Had David Beckham remained in the Premier League then the list might have looked different. Certainly his move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2003 triggered record sales of 'Beckham 23' shirts, and before him Eric Cantona was a best seller in the 1990's," said Rob Thayne.

Source: Data supplied by

Monday, October 01, 2012

Babes of the Month - Ryder Cup Birdies!

 Kristin Stape, girlfriend of Graeme McDowell

Diane Donald, wife of Luke Donald

Katy Rose, wife of Justin Rose

Friday, September 28, 2012

The World's Best Football Player Nicknames!

DUNCAN FERGUSON - 'Duncan Disorderly' - Scottish

The former Dundee United, Rangers and Everton striker was notorious for his 'hardman' image and his misdemeanours on and off the field, such as assault, headbutting and punching earned this fiery Scotsman the nickname 'Duncan Disorderly.'

Ferguson has had four convictions for assault - two arising from taxi–rank scuffles, one an altercation with a fisherman in an Anstruther pub, and the most infamous: his on–field headbutt on Raith Rovers defender John McStay in 1994 while playing for Rangers, which resulted in a three-month prison sentence. The first incident led to a £100 fine for butting a policeman, while the second resulted in a £200 fine for punching and kicking a supporter on crutches. He had been put on a year's probation for the third offence.

ANDONI GOICOECHEA - 'The Butcher of Bilbao' - Spanish

The former Osasuna, Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao and Spanish international was known as ' The Butcher of Bilbao.' Goicoechea left his stud-marks on the game's history when he almost ended the career of Diego Maradona in September 1983. The Argentinian superstar was left with a broken ankle and damaged ligaments, Goicoechea (right), who played for Spain at the 1984 championships - was given a 16-match ban. 'The Butcher' decided to commemorate the event by having the boots he wore that night put in a glass case and made into a permanent fixture in his living room.

TOM FINNEY - 'The Preston Plumber' - English

Sir Tom Finney truly was a one club man! He was born and bred in Preston and went on to play over 400 times for the Lancashire club between 1946 and 1960. He was also capped by England 76 times. When he was offered the opportunity to sign for Preston North End, his father insisted that he complete his apprenticeship in the family's plumbing business before signing as a professional. This led to one of his nicknames, the 'Preston Plumber.'
Sir Tom now aged 90, is one of England's oldest living former international footballers, but he still maintains his links with Preston North End.

FITZ HALL - 'One Size Fits All' - English

No hidden meaning here - just plain funny! The Leytonstone born defender is currently plying his trade at Watford but has worn the colours of Oldham, Southampton, Crystal Palace, Wigan and QPR since he turned professional over ten years ago.

KIM NAM-IL - 'The Vacuum Cleaner' - South Korean

South Korea’s holding midfielder (right) became a star in 2002 because of his performance in 2002 FIFA World Cup, where his nation reached the tournament semi-finals. He earned his nickname ' The Vacuum Cleaner' for his clean tackling and ability to tidy up a game from his position in front of the defence. The term 'Kim Nam-Il Syndrome' began to be coined by tabloids to describe Kim's superstardom status following the 2002 World Cup. He gained an unusually large female fan base and also became notorious for his frank and eccentric personality. Kim, now 35, currently plays for his hometown side Incheon United in South Korea.

DARREN ANDERTON - 'Sicknote' - English

The original 'Sicknote' - a name given to Darren Anderton by fans and the media due to his lengthy periods out with injury. Tottenham’s fans annoyance with Anderton, apart from the lengthy periods out of the team was, when having been out injured for almost the whole of the 1995-96 season, he unexpectedly returned to fitness for the final three matches of the domestic season, and was immediately selected to star for England in the European Championships in 1996. This gave the impression that the player was more interested in playing for his country rather than his club.

He missed most of the 1997–98 domestic season through injury, but was recalled to Glenn Hoddle's England squad for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, starting on the right wing in the first two matches of the tournament. In twelve seasons with Tottenham he made just 299 appearances and apart from three successive seasons (1995–98) when he played in total only 39 games, his appearance record averaged 29 matches each year. Anderton announced his retirement from football on 7th December 2008.

LIONEL MESSI - 'The Atomic Flea' - Argentinian

I could not let this day pass without commenting on Barcelona's Argentinian born superstar, Lionel Messi. At 25 Messi is the greatest player of his era, and maybe one day of all-time! In Spain and South America they call him ' La Pulga Atómica', meaning ' The Atomic Flea'. At the age of eleven, Messi was diagnosed with a serious growth-hormone problem. He needed expensive hospital treatment which his family simply couldn’t afford. His condition meant he was far smaller than anyone else his age, and even today he is still only 1.69 metres (5′ 7″) tall. But being smaller he was also more agile. He learnt to play with the ball on the ground, as that’s where it felt most comfortable. The rest, as they say, is history!

RAY WILKINS - 'The Crab' - English

The former England international was a much travelled club player that included spells at Chelesa, Manchester United, Milan and QPR to name but a few, but he had a penchant for passing the ball sideways. Often derided for his negative play but often had a 100 per cent pass success rate - you can't argue with that!

YOURI DJORKAEFF - 'The Snake' - French

The former French international footballer played as a forward or as an attacking midfielder and won the 1998 FIFA World Cup and European Championships in 2000 with the national team. He is nicknamed ' The Snake' because you do not know when he will strike again!
Banging the goals in for Monaco, Youri (right) spent one season at Paris St Germain before signing for Italian giants Inter Milan and then Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern, before somehow Bolton Wanderers, then managed by 'Fat' Sam Allardyce persuaded 'The Snake' to join them. He finished his playing career in the MLS with the New York Metro Stars and retired in October 2006.

JONATHAN WOODGATE - 'Village' - English

Although he denies it, Woodgate was known as ' Village' as in (village idiot) during his days at Leeds United. He began his career at Middlesbrough but moved to Leeds at the age of sixteen in 1998. However on on his frequent trips back to his native Teesside he became part of the notorious Middlesbrough 'drinking culture.' There seems little doubt that Woodgate was a personable young man when sober, but he was sucked into the drinking culture and became quite different on drink. As Woodgate became more successful and earned more, he was regularly seen at Teesside's trendiest pubs. He had a reputation for 'flashing the cash' and acting 'the big-I-am' on drinking nights in his home town. Woodgate, according to one regular publican was known to take £20 notes from his wallet and set fire to them. Once fuelled, especially with old pals in Middlesbrough where booze is plentiful and cheap, darker forces took over.

In 2000, he was a defendant with teammate Lee Bowyer in a Crown Court trial due to his involvement in a town centre brawl in which a student suffered severe injuries. The initial trial collapsed, and following a second trial, in December 2001, Bowyer was cleared of charges of GBH with intent and affray, while Woodgate was convicted of affray and sentenced to 100 hours' community service. He was also banned from international selection by the Football Association, which prevented him from being selected for the England squad for the 2002 World Cup. Never the sharpest knife in the box, perhaps, he was not bright enough to work out the dangers his social circle might embrace. His own counsel in the aborted first trial at Hull described him as 'two short planks, and thick ones at that'. Woodgate went on to play for Newcastle, Real Madrid, Middlesbrough and Spurs, but his career was blighted by injury and controversy. At the age of only 32 Woodgate has certainly led a colourful career both on and off the field, and is currently back playing for his hometown club Middlesborough.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Unwritten Laws of Football

In addition to the official laws of the game, there are also the unwritten laws.................!

* No matter how badly a player played for a club, and irrespective of how woeful he was in front of goal, once the player leaves and returns to play against his old club, he will score against them.

* Once a manager has been sacked (right), the managerless team will win their next match.

* A manager returning to a club for a second spell will almost inevitably fail repeat the success enjoyed during his first spell at the club.

* The winning run of a team will come to an end when their manager is awarded the 'Manager of the Month' award.

* Following the sacking of a manager, a team will suddenly pick up and record victories under a caretaker manager. In turn this will prompt the Board of Directors to appoint him on a permanent basis, from which point on the team will start on a downward spiral again.

* A team that couldn't put a win together to save their lives will, once relegated start to turn things around, and win games.

* Any World Cup or European Championship group that contains three decent teams will be referred to as 'The Group of Death' (right).

* When your team is embroiled in a battle for promotion or against relegation, you will take an inordinate amount of interest in the exploits of other clubs that previously held no interest for you at all.

* No matter how bad the traffic is, there is no such thing as a long and tiresome journey home following an away win.

* The national football team of Wales has been adopted as the benchmark unit of measure for all other international football teams, as in, "We're talking of a country about the size of Wales," or "They do remarkably well for a country with a population on a par to that of Wales" (see right).

* A goal will never come about directly as a result of a short corner.

* Supporters will cheer and get excited when their team wins a corner, but invariably nothing will come of it.

* Your team are on a fine run and playing really well. As a die hard supporter you invite a 'fairweather fan' to accompany you to the next home game. Your team will play dreadfully and lose, prompting the fairweather fan to say something along the lines of: "It's been two years since I've been here and it'll be another two years before I come back."

* Every team will contain one player the supporters don't like.

* A game at Manchester United is a good day out, even though you know your team will probably not win, or be awarded at least one 'stone wall' penalty (right).

* There will always be at least one TV commentator who will refer to the Community Shield as the 'traditional curtain raiser to the season.'

* Everyone becomes a better player once they have given up playing.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A front row ticket to The Circus. Charlton v Palace tonight. The facts and the betting!

Tonight sees a unique derby match at The Valley where Dougie Freedman takes his Crystal Palace side on a short trip to a local circus, where they have not won so much as a donkey ride for sixteen years. This however is not Merseyside, Glasgow, Sheffield or The Black Country because but this is no ordinary derby, this a South London derby where the rivalry is predominately one-sided!

Charlton Athletic hate Crystal Palace, the football club and of course that includes the fans of the club. Nothing strikingly unusual about one club and its fans disliking another club, other than that we as Palace fans care little about what goes on in London, SE7, as our true disdain surrounds a football club some sixty miles away on the East Sussex coast.

It’s fair to say that there is history between the clubs, most recently Charlton sent Palace reeling out of the top flight on the last day of the season back in 2005, but the damage had been done many weeks and matches prior to the lights being turned out on Crystal Palace’s last taste of top flight football. Charlton celebrated the relegation of Palace on that infamous last day of the season as if they themselves were celebrating a big fat gypsy wedding. The Clowns as they are affectionately nicknamed by the Palace fans’ have hit a few highs and plenty of lows in recent years, culminating in a fall from grace which ended up with Clowntown (an area of London with the postcode SE7 twinned with.......well absolutely nobody) being visited by such footballing giants as Scunthorpe and Hartlepool in the third tier of English football, (no disrespect whatsoever is meant to either The Irons or The Monkey Hangers or their fans in this piece).

Then unlike a phoenix rising from the ashes, and more like a bunch of red nosed buffoons in wigs, baggy trousers and face paint Charlton Football Club and their fickle fans pulled together and managed to rescue a semblance of respectability, by regaining their Championship status this season, after three seasons in the wilderness.

I have never known a football club like Charlton to want a rivalry with a fellow club who only on the basis of geography happen to reside close by, whilst their neighbours simply do not feel the same. For Palace, a match against the Clowns is just another league fixture, and for Crystal Palace and their fans it is the opportunity to win a match, as with any match, every week of the season. The notoriously loud Crystal  Palace fans will turn up in their numbers on the day and win, lose or draw they will sing for 90 minutes to show the pride and passion and absolute love they have for their club, no matter what!

Palace and Charlton are bordered by another South London club, in Millwall, all three of whom now ply their trade in the second tier of the English game and some sizeable Premier League London based giants such as Arsenal, Chelsea and  Tottenham, whilst we are also surrounded by some other novelty clubs in areas such as West London, East London, Hertfordshire and Kent.

Palace have a rivalry with Brighton that is as animated as any footballing rivalry in the Country, and probably the most unusual of its kind, because if you are not a fan of either team it is very unlikely that you will understand the history and subsequent loathing that the fans of these two clubs have for each other. It is indeed a truly intense and fierce rivalry and the game that both sets of fans look for the moment the fixture lists are released. If as a fan of football you want to understand better what fuelled the Palace v Brighton hostility then do please read this article.

As for Charlton, well they are looking forward to this evening’s game under floodlights like a rabbit about to pass a row of six snarling caged greyhounds before the traps fly open. This is their Cup Final! For Palace fans it’s another game with three points at stake and some clown and traveller based banter to occupy the moment, but bragging rights......well we’re just not interested!

Palace fans love their club, the owners, the management team and the players. To Palace fans, the players must play for the crest on the front of the shirt first and foremost. Any name on the back of the shirt will not break or divide the unyielding united front amongst the fans. The players know this, they play their hearts out for the name on the front of the shirt, because the name on the back can easily be replaced. At Palace we believe in the players under the stewardship of Dougie Freedman, because we have a boss who is a Crystal Palace playing legend and knows how much the club needs the fans and the fans need the club.

Charlton currently have an ex-player as their manager, and I have great respect for him, but I bleed red and blue and 3,000 Palace fans on Friday night will I believe out-sing a stadium where they will be outnumbered in the region of 6 to 1. Come what may after tonight’s match, believe me, this is just the undercard. Come the 1st December and the 17th March, as Palace fans this is when the main event truly takes centre stage!

Bring on Brighton!

Betting Preview:
Charlton win: Evens (Coral and Ladbrokes).
C.Palace win: 33/10 (BetVictor).
Match Drawn: 5/2 (Betfred, Paddy Power and Totesport).

First Goalscorer:
B. Wright-Phillips 6/1 (Paddy Power and William Hill), D. Goodwillie 9/1 (Bet365), G.Murray 10/1 (BetVictor and William Hill), O.Garvan 14/1 (Ladbrokes and Coral), A. Moritz 16/1 (Bet365 and Blue Square).

Correct Score:
Charlton win 1-0 13/2 (Bet Victor), Palace win 2-1 12/1 (Hills, Betfred and Coral) Draw 0-0 10/1 (Ladbrokes).

# Odds correct at time of going to press.
For more odds go to Oddschecker

Friday, September 07, 2012

An Alternative Glossary of Footballing Terminology

Football quotes, remarks, terms and descriptions are open to a minefield of interpretation and analysis, so here is a list of often heard, sometimes overused classic football related remarks, and what they really mean!

# Great vision  =  Does not see a simple pass.

# A very experienced player  =  A bit over the hill.

# Temperamental  =  Nutcase.

# Not afraid to take people on  =  Blissfully unaware of team-mates screaming for him to pass the ball.

# He did everything right but put the ball in the net  =  He can't finish.

# I'm happy with the squad I've got  =  The board has told me I'm not getting another penny to spend on players.

# Loyal club player  =  Never had an offer from another club.

# Workrate is excellent  =  Runs around the pitch like a  headless chicken, but never gets the ball.

# That's what the cup is all about, the whole town is buzzing  =  The butcher has put a rosette in his window.

# We're just going out to enjoy ourselves  =  We haven't a hope in hell of winning.

# We'll settle for a replay  =  We need the money.

# He was on fire today  =  His contract's up for negotiation.

# He's still learning  =  He's rubbish, but he's young, so there's hope.

# Creative player  =  Bit namby-pamby but can pass a ball.

# Looks to be struggling with his knee  =  Knows he's played rubbish and is about to be substituted.

# An ambitious effort  =  Hopelessly wayward shot from 30 yards.

# He got too much purchase on that  =  Open goal, head back and blazed the ball over.

# Good footballing brain  =  Brain contains basically what you find in a football.

# This is real cat-and-mouse stuff  =  Neither team has had a shot at goal.

# You'd expect him to do better from there  =  He missed from three yards out.

# He was given too much space  =  The marking was diabolical.

# I wouldn't write them off yet  =  They're dead and buried.

# Which is why it's such a wonderful game  =  I'm wrong again.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Babe of the Month - Gorgeous Crystal Cheerleader Claire

Claire is the vice-captain of the 'The Crystals,' the official cheerleaders of Crystal Palace Football Club. 'The Crystals' are a regular feature on match days at Selhurst Park, entertaining the fans at every home game.

Babe of the Month - Crystal Cheerleader Claire 

The girls are all huge Crystal Palace fans themselves and regularly feature and promote the Club through their media work. This morning (Saturday 1st Sept) they will be appearing, not for the first time, on Sky Sports Soccer AM.

In the summer 'The Crystals' were runners-up in their bid to become the official 'Team GB' cheerleaders for the London Olympics 2012.

Last July they created their own dance routine to Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen's monster hit 'Call Me Maybe.'

The video features the cheerleaders performing along to the song in and around the Selhurst Park stadium, and it has proved a smash hit on YouTube with nearly one and a half million views. Here is the video that made 'The Crystals' an overnight internet sensation!

Find out more about the 'The Crystals' on Facebook and Twitter

* For Information/bookings contact