Thursday, 10 April 2008

Unparalleled sporting achievement


For the second year running, there are three British (well, English, heh) teams in the UEFA Champions' League semi-finals. The difference this year, as I see it, is that I think Manchester United will beat Barcelona and give us the first ever all-English European Cup final (although the glamorous Wolves and Tottenham contested the first UEFA Cup final in 1972).

Despite not being unknown in the lesser UEFA Cup competition, and its predecessor the Inter-City Fairs Cup, intra-country European Cup finals are a recent development. They are the direct consequence of UEFA letting virtually every team in England, Spain and Italy who don't get relegated from the top flight into the next season's competition. As is my wont, I decided to look into the plain statistical fact surrounding these modern sports phenomena.

There have been two single-country European Cup finals. The first was in Paris in 2000, Real Madrid beating Valencia 3-0. The second was at Old Trafford in 2003, Milan beating Juventus on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

There have been seven single-country UEFA Cup finals. This was a particular boon for the club secretary in charge of travel, as until 1998 these were two-legged home and away affairs.

1972 Tottenham Hotspur beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 3-2 on aggregate
yes, that's right, they played the game on a fine carpet of gravel and swarf.
1980 Eintracht Frankfurt beat Borussia Mönchengladbach on away goals after drawing 3-3 on aggregate
1990 Juventus beat Fiorentina 3-1 on aggregate
1991 Internazionale beat Roma 2-1 on aggregate
1995 Parma beat Juventus 2-1 on aggregate
1998 Internazionale beat Lazio 3-0 in Paris
2007 Seville beat RCD Espanyol on penalties after a 2-2 draw in Glasgow

As Clive Tyldesley will surely tell you, English clubs have a pretty distinguished record in European Cup competitions. They are beaten only by Italian and Spanish teams in terms of most wins in European competitions. However, whilst a cursory glance at the record books shows that the big names from Italy and Spain have often secured their triumphs after playing against each other, English clubs normally prevail when by some quirk of fate, a pub team reach the final. Here is a list of all the teams vanquished by English opponents in the finals of European cup competitions.

1860 Munich (West Ham, Cup Winners' Cup 1965)
AC Milan (Liverpool, European Cup 2005)
Alavés (Liverpool, UEFA Cup 2001)
Anderlecht (Arsenal, Fairs Cup 1970; Spurs, UEFA Cup 1984)
Atletico Madrid (Spurs, Cup Winners' Cup 1963)
AZ (Ipswich Town, UEFA Cup 1981)
Barcelona (Man Utd, Cup Winners' Cup 1991) Pretty good, I suppose
Bayern Munich (Aston Villa, European Cup 1981; Man Utd, European Cup 1999)
Benfica (Man Utd, European Cup 1968)
Borussia Mönchengladbach (Liverpool, UEFA Cup 1973; European Cup 1977)
FC Brugge (Liverpool, UEFA Cup 1976; European Cup 1978)
Ferencvaros (Leeds Utd, Fairs Cup 1968)
Gornik Zabrze (Man City, Cup Winners' Cup 1970)
Hamburg (Nottingham Forest, European Cup 1980)
Juventus (Leeds Utd, Fairs Cup 1971) Harumph
Mälmo (Nottingham Forest, European Cup 1979)
Parma (Arsenal, Cup Winners' Cup 1994)
Rapid Vienna (Everton, Cup Winners' Cup 1985)
Real Madrid (Chelsea, Cup Winners' Cup 1971) OK, this one's pretty impressive looking
Roma (Liverpool, European Cup 1984)
Stuttgart (Chelsea, Cup Winners' Cup 1998)
Ujpest Dozsa (Newcastle, Fairs Cup 1969)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (Spurs, UEFA Cup 1972)

This dazzlingly starchy list throws up a number of questions, 40% of which begin with "WHO...?". The most interesting of these is likely to be, who were FC Brugge and how did they become Liverpool's most implacable European rivals in the late-1970s. I too wonder this, and live in hope that decent football blogs will one day answer this question.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

You can't fingerprint for it

Being a rock star is a major responsibility. Beyond the unreasonable fan expectations and the pressures of recording, touring and contractually-obligated creativity; a major burden at the back of any rock mind must surely be the fact that you're meant to die an exciting and unusual death, often at the age of 27.

Chief among these is, of course, choking on your own vomit. It's a good way to go, rock-wise. Vomit is a wonderful fluid, redolent with the haunting aromas of lost loves and decayed friendships; a tangible reminder of a night out which has otherwise passed into the miasmic fug of history. It also has lumps in it.

What a lot of people do not consider in these cases, though, is that vomit does not just come from over-indulgence in drugs alone. There is no vomit bladder, or any other organ to produce the sickins. For there to be vomit, there has to be something to vomit up, in medical terms. I am an investigative soul and my search for truth has already made me fairly notorious in several village libraries. Not least in Rustington, West Sussex, where I accused a dear old elderly librarian of covering up vital details in the Robert Kennedy assassination. She cried then and she is still crying now. Bitch.

But I digress. What I really wanted to get into the public domain were the full details surrounding the untimely demises of Jimi Hendrix and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Many people have wondered exactly what it was they had been eating to cause such a drastic failure of their own bodies' emetic sex-fun systems. I am happy to report that, through careful bin rummaging and my nose - which, had I decided to, could have made me a highly sought-after employee of the perfume industry - I can now exclusively reveal the answers.

JIMI HENDRIX
27.11.1942 - 18.9.1970

The famous American banjoist Hendrix was found dead in his London flat in September 1970. Quincy, the medical examiner on call at the time, decreed that the cause of death was asphyxiation on his own tummy fudge. I tracked down the key evidence in this case in a bin outside Hendrix's old London pad in Brook Street. Tipped off by the blue plaque on the wall, which intimated that there was indeed a Tesco bag full of puke belonging to the great man nearby, I was able to track down the delicious sick. Identifying it at Hendrix's was fairly easy, as it contained 3 afro hairs from his flamboyant rock and roll coiffure, and a gold-embossed plectrum with JIM written on it in biro.

Using a scientific apparatus called the Gas Chromataspuke, I was able to run tests on the sample and create an accurate timeline of ingestion for Hendrix's last few hours. Here are my findings.

19:00 hrs - Hendrix necks a two litre bottle of Tizer.
19:20 - Palate refreshed by the Tizer, Hendrix eats 2 bags of Big D dry-roasted peanuts and a plate of bangers and mash
19:33 - more Tizer
19:42 - Hendrix's girlfriend arrives with a bag of Dolly Mixtures. Hendrix has a pink one and one of those yellow cube ones.
19:56 - Tizer
20:17 - Hendrix and his entourage decamp to a pub in Camden. Over the next two hours Hendrix drinks 4 pints of Watney's Red and eats a bag of ready salted crisps.
22:46 - Hendrix stops off at a late-night shop to buy a packet of sweet cigarettes and eats two. On the way back to his flat he finds a roadkill badger and eats it raw.
23:30 - Hendrix reports to friends that the badger "is not sitting right" and extinguishes the flames with some Britvic.
23:34 - Hendrix throws up the badger

The rest, sadly, is history.

JOHN BONHAM
31.5.1948 - 25.9.1980

Bonham, Led Zeppelin's exceptional lead cellist, was found dead in a room at a hotel near Windsor. The on-call coroner, Quincy, attributed cause of death to choking on tasty, tasty sick. The maid at the hotel had kept the spew in a ziplock bag for the past 28 years, just waiting and hoping someone would one day come along and properly research this case. For a small donation and a number of other acts, she parted with her bounty and I was able to get to work. The Gas Chromataspuke by this time being clogged with badger hair, I was forced to resort to more Victorian measures. So, I fried the sick up in an omelette and ate it. Whilst this method does not provide a timeline of events like the more modern machinery, it still allowed me to know exactly what Bonham had in his digestive tract on the fateful night.
  • 2 packets Pom Bear
  • 2 cans Gold Label barley wine
  • Box of Matchmakers (mint)
  • 3 Quality Street
  • Roast beef
  • 2 pints gravy
  • Bag of Skips
  • Pickled onions
  • A Pork Farms buffet pork pie, with piccalilli.

Attention

You have reached the bottom of the internet