Sod my favourite ten football shirts. That can wait. Remember what I said about there being no close season any more? Well, it’s true. This has been a terrific week for the bizarre and the extraordinary, and it deserves some sort of reporting.
We kick off (or, rather, as we’ll see, we don’t) at Clarence Park, St Albans, where St Albans City were due to be playing in a pre-season friendly. Before the match, the two managers agreed to throw FIFA’s rule limiting teams to six substitutes for friendly matches out of the window. Luton are four divisions above St Albans anyway, and both teams were short of practice. The Saints had been in training for two days, and The Hatters for just a fortnight. It wouldn’t do any harm, would it? Wrong. When half-time came, the managers approached the referee and told him of this, and he walked out of the ground, taking the linesmen with him. It looked as if the whole thing would have to be cancelled, but fortunately Luton’s press officer is a qualified referee, so he took charge for the second half, with two youth players running the line.
Presumably, Herts County FA (or whomever is responsible for this individual) will have been notified of this. Both sides had agreed on it, the crowd would surely have given more of a damn if the match had been abandoned at half-time than if the two teams had played rolling substitutes for the second half. One would hope that this particular fool’s career comes to an end early. I daren’t even think what would happen should he take charge of a match with any real responsibility.
Elsewhere, Dietmar Hamann has spurned Bolton for Manchester City, in spite of having technically been a Bolton player for the last three weeks. What this says about the self-aggrandising, be-microphoned Sam Allardyce is open to speculation, and Hamann appears to be too much of a gentleman to say much about it in public apart from to say how much he was impressed by Stuart Pearce, but I think that it’s probably fair to say that, as a midfielder, he didn’t much fancy the idea of spending a season standing in the middle of the pitch at The Reebok Stadium like a spectator at Wimbledon, as Kevin Nolan hoofs yet another long ball somewhere in the general direction of Kevin Davies. As I’ve said before, the only saving grace of Steve McLaren becoming the new England coach was that at least it wasn’t Allardyce. It appears that I’m not the only person of that opinion.
Finally, Europe. Jurgen Klinsmann and Marcello Lippi (perhaps the only two coaches to emerge from Germany 2006 with their reputations enhanced) have both quit. Two clubs or countries could be set to get very lucky indeed. If Klinsmann is going back to California… Well, USSF! What are you waiting for? On the club front, the Preliminary Round of the Champions League didn’t contain anybody that really stood out, but… it’s the first qualifying round of the UEFA Cup tonight! Such luminaries as Dinamo Bucharest, CSKA Sofia, HJK Helsinki, Brondby, Basle and IFK Gothenberg, therefore, are also included as members of the July Club – fighting to take a place the self-proclaimed “elite” of European football. This, of course, is slightly different to the Intertoto. These clubs have been excluded from the top end of European football because they’re not big enough box office. Good luck to them. I hope one of them gives the twelfth best team in Germany/Spain/Italy/England (etcera) a bloody nose at some point.