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News & Comment

Outside the Box: Oswestry breaking new ground with slot in Champions' League

Those who have not been paying attention to the small print on the results pages may be unaware that not only is a new Champions' League campaign under way, but that this week England will have a new venue for the world's grandest club competition. Joining Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and the Emirates – and beating White Hart Lane to the punch – is The Venue at Park Hall in the Shropshire town of Oswestry (population 15,613). It's the home of Welsh Premier League champions TNS, which now stands for The New Saints (of Llansantffraid and Oswestry) rather than the name immortalised by Jeff Stelling on Sky's 'Soccer Saturday' in his catchphrase: "They'll be dancing in the streets of Total Network Solutions." TNS is a result of the merger of Llansantffraid and Oswestry Town, one of the world's oldest clubs, in 2003. They became The New Saints in 2006 and moved over the border to the new ground in 2007. The year before, in a Champions' League appearance, they had been drawn against the holders Liverpool and put up two commendable performances before losing each leg 3-0, the home game being played at Wrexham. On Tuesday, TNS meet Bohemians of Dublin in the second leg of their second qualifying round tie, having lost the away leg 1-0 last Wednesday.

Journo says Terry's all gold

As it is impossible to watch every game at a World Cup, picking a Best XI from the tournament, while tempting, is tricky; not surprisingly, some unlikely names occur, often based on the selector in question having seen a particular player have one decent game. But hats off for original thinking to South African journalist Mogomotsi Selebi, who decided that Gerard Pique's central defensive partner among the crème de la crème should be none other than Mr Chelsea, John Terry; and that the best right-back at World Cup 2010 was not Philipp Lahm, Sergio Ramos, Maicon or any other deadbeat but, er, Glen Johnson. And the decent game that Mr Selebi must have spotted? We'll get back to you on that one; bit busy at present studying the film of Germany's four goals in Bloemfontein.

Vuvu in a seat near you?

The alarmingly high number of vuvuzelas being carried by passengers on flights from South Africa to Britain (there are now stern warnings about not blowing them during the journey) suggests that the domestic game is in for a noisy season. It does appear that the vuvu is coming to a stadium near you; in very unlucky circumstances, even a seat near you. The Chinese factory that made 90 per cent of the plastic trumpets which created such a din over the past six weeks is convinced that "the market will expand after the World Cup as people from other countries begin to love them". Two salutary tales from Germany on the subject: firstly, one drunken fan began beating a police officer about the head with a vuvuzela; secondly, in Bavaria, a man may be charged after threatening to kill his neighbours with an axe if they did not stop blowing them during a televised game. We have been warned.

Last nine left standing

Last week's final World Cup trivia quiz requested the names of the nine players who managed to progress as far as the quarter-finals, having survived the assault course of at least 20 Premier League games. The last nine standing (or lying injured in Fernando Torres's case) from 108 PL players who went to South Africa were: Torres and Cesc Fabregas (Spain), Dirk Kuyt, John Heitinga and Nigel de Jong (Holland), John Pantsil and Kevin-Prince Boateng (Ghana), Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez (Argentina).