Outside the Box: Future is still black and white for 150-year-old Notts County
The dawn of 2012 is more significant to Notts County than any other team as they become the first League club to celebrate a 150th anniversary.
County were officially formed in 1862, playing matches among themselves for two years, and until 1910 they shared Trent Bridge cricket ground before moving to Meadow Lane. For their centenary they played an England XI and this time they have promised supporters a pre-season visit from "one of Europe's top clubs" – surely Juventus, who in September opened their new stadium with a friendly against Notts, the original donors of the Italian club's famous black-and-white stripes – readers may recall that when Juve's pink shirts faded too much, an Englishman playing for them arranged with a Nottingham friend for a set of County kit to be sent over.
Also commemorating this year's anniversary are a new book, Tied Up In Notts, by the veteran Radio Nottingham commentator Colin Slater MBE, who has now reported on nearly 2,200 of their games; and a new beer, brewed by Castle Rock and called "Pie Eyed 150".
Albrighton swift to shell out
It is always good to hear of a Premier League player properly rooted in his local community, so a happy new year to Aston Villa's Marc Albrighton, who watches his hometown teams Tamworth and Bolehall Swifts whenever he can, and is now sponsoring the Swifts, a team he watched with his father as a small boy.
The England Under-21 winger paid for a set of tracksuits and polo shirts in the Swifts' yellow-and-green colours, buys the winner of the club's man-of-the-month award a pair of top-of-the-range boots and does the trophy presentations at awards nights for the junior sides.
"I absolutely love watching non-League football, whether it's at Bolehall or down at The Lamb [Tamworth's ground]," he said. "It's good, honest football and there are no prima donnas."
Now Albrighton is part of the Bolehall family in more ways than one. His girlfriend Chloe is the daughter of the Swifts manager Daren Fulford and is expecting their first child next month.
Family background on both sides will, however, tell her what to expect: Albrighton's dad Terry missed his wife's birthday in 1982... because he had been following Villa to their glorious European Cup final victory over Bayern Munich in Rotterdam.
Red mist falls over Christmas
In the days when clubs played each other twice over the holiday period – often on successive days – there could be some remarkable swings in results, not always attributable to overdoing the festivities.
The most famous examples were probably in 1963, when West Ham lost 8-2 at home to Blackburn on Boxing Day and won the return at Ewood Park two days later 3-1; Fulham drubbed Ipswich 10-1 (which is still their record score) then lost 4-2; and Manchester United recovered from a 6-1 mauling by Burnley to beat them 5-1 at Old Trafford.
Something of the tradition survives in non-League football, though eight sendings-off in the Blue Square Bet Premier when the same teams were in opposition for local derbies this season on Boxing Day and New Year's Day suggests that ill-feeling carried over from the first game is a good reason to leave rather longer between the meetings.
The happiest club were Luton Town, who played Kettering twice and won 5-0 home and away, with no fewer than eight different scorers – and no red cards.
Put the boot into Boot Room
Liverpool's public relations effort before the Luis Suarez case was heard had been widely condemned.
Once the damning judgment was published last weekend and the club had another go at winning friends and influencing people, the verdict from media commentators included "staggering lack or remorse", "served only to make matters worse", "deeply self-serving".
From one self-confessed Liverpool supporter working for a national paper: "a farce... a shambolic display... a public relations disaster. The cup for cock-ups has a new home".
So that went well.
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