May 04

Secondary support

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Secondary support

I was interested to find that I had preferences in all the League playoff finals this year, for various reasons. Beyond my beloved Bristol Rovers, I don’t care much about what any other teams do, but I found I had a desire for a particular result in all these games, and they seem to say something to me about how football tastes can work.

The first house I bought, four years ago, was in East Ham, ten minutes walk from the West Ham ground. They were in the Premiership, Bristol Rovers were low in the 2nd. I thought I’d adopt West Ham as my second team – I’d get to watch them on TV every week, they had several players I really liked (Di Canio, Cole, Sinclair). It never really took, but I was rather sorry when they went down – and that cost me the first reason, of course. Still, I was hoping they’d come back up. Crystal Palace I have a slight negative feeling about, I think due to Ron Noades comments about black players when he was their chairman, years ago. He said something about their having talent, but not being tough when it counted. This was when Palace had Eric Young in their team! I know it’s unfair to dislike a team due to that, but these things are naturally irrational.

The 2nd Division one was clear cut: I’m neutral on Brighton, but their opponents were Bristol City. I don’t have the great hatred of them that many Rovers fans do, but I have enough that I was glad to see them lose.

In the 3rd, Mansfield mean nothing to me at all. Huddersfield, however, are a mixed back. I have a friend who supports them, which usually disposes me a little towards a team, but Huddersfield were the other team in what seems to me to be the pivotal moment in Rovers’ recent history. The only time I’ve been to Wembley was for the 2nd division playoff final several years back, Rovers vs. Huddersfield. We were 2-1 down in the closing moments, when Marcus Stewart hit the woodwork. 2-1 was the final score. We sold Stewart to Huddersfield, and since then we have been selling really good strikers regularly – Barry Hayles, Jason Roberts, Bobby Zamora, Jason Cureton, Nathan Ellington and more. We’ve declined to our worst ever performances – the last four seasons have been our worst positions ever. I always imagine that if we’d gone up we might have held on to our best players and the extra money might have allowed us to consolidate there. So, hardly anything to Huddersfield’s discredit, but I blame them in a small way, so I’m a Mansfield fan today.

May 04

Cheaters Never Prosper!

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Cheaters Never Prosper! And indeed the only winners here are German bierkeller-quiz masters who have a fine new question or two.

May 04

I don’t much like watching the tennis.

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I don’t much like watching the tennis. It’s not the game for me. I like epic one-on-one struggles, tests of nerve and skill and emotional strength as much as the next blogger but I think the darts provides all that much more effectively. And the darts doesn’t make me feel ashamed of my own waistline.

I’m generally pleased when a major tournament rolls around, though, because I adore the commentaries I read here (and on similar threads), lead mainly by Mike Jones and his genius for re-naming and shaming. For the tennis dilettante they are tantalisingly semi-decipherable, like reading a review of a favourite band in Czech, or something.

I suggested to Mike that he might like to bring his tennis talk to TMFD but he prefers the interaction, which is, I suppose, fair enough. Go and interact.

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS – Saving The World Before Bedtime

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We found this boardgame in a charity shop at the weekend. It’s a lavish game with good production values and a nice game mechanism, very similar to the much-loved Judge Dredd Boardgame. Players, controlling any or all the PPGs at a time, move a space or two around Townsville by means of card play and turn over tiles which usually contain a villain. They then roll a dice to fight the villain, needing to roll a certain number of hearts to beat them and collect the tile.

The game is well designed and the play works but there’s a certain lack of variety. The rules specify that the winner is the first to capture 4 villains – in fact this happens within a couple of turns so extending the requirement is a good idea. There are a few special cards which affect gameplay but not enough to stop things becoming repetitive. It’s a shame because it means the verve and imagination of the TV series quickly go missing. The villains list is present and correct though as with a lot of PPG tie-ins Him is missing – quite why merchandisers are so shy of a camp pink devil is a mystery!

May 04

I shall be sad if Gerard Houllier leaves Liverpool.

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I shall be sad if Gerard Houllier leaves Liverpool. This is not in any sense a footballing opinion, it is a purely aesthetic one. Houllier has one of the most telegenic and interesting faces of any Premiership manager. Not since Droopy was a feature on Rolf’s Cartoon Time has a screen face been so eloquently woeful. The slightly square head, the cast of the mouth, the large eyes, the huddle of the shoulder in his huge overcoat and red scarf – when results are disappointing everything about him suggests a man whose life has become one long sigh of “Bof!”. Most managers have expressive faces but the expressions in question tend to be “stern” or “furious” or very occasionally “joyful” – it will be a pity to lose “existentially rueful” entirely from the lexicon. A glittering career as a Stella ad character actor surely awaits.

May 04


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There are few purer ways to waste money than Panini sticker albums. Devoid of free gum or trading-card game status or any kind of real-world use they represent the collector impulse at its simplest. According to the website there is not even the complication of limited edition or deliberately rare stickers in a Panini collection. It’s a mathematical problem: given a pool of collectors n, fair and unweighted trading, and stickers produced in equal proportions, what is the minimum amount each need spend on 5-sticker packets for all to complete a 300-sticker collection?

In the real world of course trading stickers is decidedly unfair – woe betide the boy whose got – got – need – got – need chant was interrupted by a gasp or “wow”. Trades though were only part of the joy of Panini – what came back to me most strongly when I bought their Euro 2004 album on Friday was the private pleasure of sticker collection.

I was a bit nervous about buying the thing – for one thing it is plainly and obviously not something an adult ‘should’ be doing. I stuffed it in my bag quickly, keeping out my cover purchase – the much more respectable Word magazine. But even beyond that there was the risk that sitting down with album and stickers would give me the same slightly embarrassed, hollow feeling that you get when you play a rubbish old Spectrum game on an emulator. When I opened the first packet and held the tiny stickers clumsily in my suddenly giant hands my fears seem well-founded.

But then gradually the memories came back. I was into football stickers before I was into football, and part of the thrill was of getting a player I’d actually heard of. The predominance of Latvians in the stickers I’d bought this time made this an easy pleasure to recover – step forward, Dietmar Hamann. And then step forward again – my first swapsie. Then came the second pack and I was slipping into an old ritual – pull the bunched stickers out, quickly flick through for a foil one and put it to the back if found, trying not to look at it. Then the click of nail against edge, and the unpeeling, and the satisfying pile of discarded backings. The careful placement, especially of the two-part team stickers. Tucking the swaps into the back of the album and lastly a flick through, admiring completed rows, sighing over pages lacking a single sticker.

Some things have changed – there are less stickers on most pages, it seems to me, and the neat, formal rows have been replaced with more fluid and colourful placings. The stadium stickers have gone – a shame – but the dubious practise of making lesser teams cram their players on two to a sticker (always something the African teams at the World Cup fell victim to) has been abandoned too. Panini’s lock on the market is gone too – all my local newsagents have Merlin’s even smaller stickers with their nasty free bubblegum; I can only get the Paninis in Smith’s. But the most satisfying aspect of collecting remains – the wonderful weight and thickness of pages as the album inches to completion.

(Several FT staff members are collecting Euro 2004 stickers – readers are urged to write in for potential swaps.)

May 04

Cow-Patty Bingo

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Have the national sports media really only now gotten around to the concept of Cow-Patty Bingo?

“Gee whiz Martha, what will they think of next? Donkey basketball?”

May 04

Well the cheating tactic worked.

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Well the cheating tactic worked. Except the cheating was not as outlined below. The Arsenal vs Fulham Women’s League title decider actuall kicked off at about 7pm – time enough to get everyone out and sell new tickets to the new punters. The final score was 3-1 to Arsenal infront of a respectable, albeit not record breaking 5,000 crowd. It is possible the time taken to start the game was more due to all the crap on the pitch (and I am not just refering to the Leicester players) after Arsenal accepted the Premiereship trophy.

Shockingly there was no reference at all to this victory in the Observer sports section yesterday. Instea dplenty of pages celebrating the male teams victory, which was already settled three weeks ago. Equally the victory parade of the men’s team was covered, yet the news programme did not consider a one liner about the women also celebrating the double to be appropriate.

May 04


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QUESTION: Is the decision to play the title decider of the Women’s Football League between Arsenal and Fulham at Highbury after the Arsenal Men’s Team play and receive the Premiership Trophy:

a) A great idea to promote the women’s game, the great year Arsenal Ladies have had and a fitting showpiece to display how the women’s game has come on in leaps and bounds
b) Patronising to suggest that the game would not get a decent audience all by itself, and highlighting that the policy of shunting the ladies off to Barnet to play regularly denigrates them as a second class attraction
c) CHEATING! If they win, they get the league (and cup double). Having a potential crowd of thrity thousand at their backs would almost treble the current recod for attendence for a modern ladies game. Pity poor Fulham and Charlton to be placed against this.

Scrabble Tournament: The Head of Steam, London, 9 May

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Scrabble Tournament: The Head of Steam, London, 9 May

Hello you! The T.M.F.D current Scrabble Champion here, reporting back. Yes, I won the tournament, but I’m not boasting, am I? Me? As if! Either way, I drew three games, each against some very strong opponents, and finally clinched the last game by a few points. I should have won by more, but played a STINKER of a phony without thinking it through. I played BOOTINGS through an existing O – it quite RIGHTLY got challenged off, and two seconds later I spotted the obvious all-out play of BOOSTING. Argh! The spot to play BOOSTING was promptly blocked off by Donkey, and the board became as closed as the wardrobe to Narnia.

For your information, dear reader(s), here is a snapshot of the the finals board. I’m particularly proud of DRAGOON, my opening move. My only other all out play was ETESIAn, down at the bottom. On saying that, I think Donkey’s hard to spot move of CRIMINAL deserves a lot of applause, I very much doubt I would have seen that.


Marvellous! But is it as marvellous as the time I played GOTHS down triple number one, and then managed to form VISIGOTHS a few goes later on the other triple??

Triple Triple!

Exxxxcellent. Seasoned Scrabblers will note that I’m deliberately trying to avoid using the American term of “bingo” to refer to an occasion where one plays out all seven tiles. Aren’t I doing well? Well, not really, as last night I played HOSTER (with an I on my rack, too insane to spot HOISTER), but at least then I managed another one, which I have conveniently forgotten. I blame the new Cappuccino Kit Kat Kubes (review coming soon to Publog!) that we were scoffing during aforesaid game. Ooh aye.