Mark Flatts’ many numbers at Arsenal

From time to time, we run squad number quizzes on Twitter, asking followers to guess the player by the digits he carried:

The answer to the above is Robbie Fowler over two spells at Liverpool, by the way. One player who would be perfect for such a quiz, were it not for the fact that he would be far too difficult to guess, is Mark Flatts, once of Arsenal.

We’ve already looked at how squad numbers were introduced for the Coca-Cola and FA Cup finals of 1993, when Arsenal faced Sheffield Wednesday. At just 20, Flatts was down the Gunners’ pecking order and so was given 23 for the two deciders.

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Having won the two cup finals, Arsenal’s big signing of the summer was Eddie McGoldrick from Crystal Palace. He was allocated number 11 as the Premier League adopted squad numbers, and Ray Parlour, 11 for the cup finals, was moved to 23, though he would still play 27 league games in 93-94. As a result, Flatts was bumped one numbter upwards:

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Young Scottish striker Paul Dickov was Arsenal’s number 27 in 93-94, but perhaps as an indication that he might get more game-time, George Graham moved him to 24 for 94-95. That meant another switch for Flatts, taking the 25 vacated by Neil Heaney.

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If the pattern was to continue, Flatts should have been given 26 for 1995-96, but instead he moved downwards as part of a number of small changes effected by new manager Bruce Rioch – David Hillier moved from 18 to 17, Steve Morrow 18 to 21, John Jensen 17 to 19 (though technically it was 17-30-19 as he looked set to depart before a change of heart).

A bigger move, though, was the catalyst for this change. Parlour swapped 23 for 15, allowing Dickov to move from 24 to 23 and Flatts to regain 24. It would prove to be his final season at the club, however.

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1-11 at international level; vacant Premier League numbers

At the time of writing (lunchtime on Tuesday), there are still nine internationals to be played in what are now being referred to as the European Qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

By the end of the round of fixtures, it looks like we’ll be left with a total of three countries, of the 54 in action, to have begun the game with their team numbered 1-11 – England, the Netherlands and Scotland. Even Gibraltar and the newly-formed Kosovo had squad numbers.

England stick to the origins, and, while Scotland’s system isn’t the most perfect, they still deserve kudos for not buckling.

We have doffed our hats to the Netherlands in the past, of course, and while all the rest of Tuesday’s participants are listed by squad number on the UEFA site, the Dutch players have zeroes next to their names.

Of the other nations, Denmark and Wales (who have form, to be fair) came closest, starting with nine 1-11 players:

It was also interesting to note a reassignment of some numbers in the wake of retirements. Mesut Ozil is now the Germany number 10 after Lukas Podolski’s departure – apparently he wants it at Arsenal too – while the Republic of Ireland have replaced one Robbie with another at 10.

Robbie Keane signed off with a goal in the friendly against Oman last week and for the game with Serbia last night, Robbie Brady inherited it, having previously been associated with 19. Brady played in midfield in the 2-2 draw but has played most often at left-back in recent times. We have to say, we’re feeling a bit nervous.

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Elsewhere, all of the Premier League squad numbers have been finalised, following the closing of the transfer window.

Of the 220 available 1-11 numbers, 24 – or just under 11 percent – are empty.

Liverpool are the worst offenders, leaving 4, 8 and 9 vacant. Obviously, Steven Gerrard’s old number is still seen as a heavy burden which can’t be given to just anyone, but surely Ragnar Klavan – who wore 5 at Augsburg – could have taken the 4 freed up by Kolo Touré’s departure, rather than 17?

Daniel Sturridge was offered number 9 before Christian Benteke came but turned it down. Speaking of players who have left Liverpool on loan, Lazar Markovic isn’t wearing 50 anymore:

Bournemouth, Hull City, Leicester City, Middlesbrough and Southampton have allocated all of the numbers from 1-11. The most unused number is 2, which isn’t used at Everton, either of the Manchester clubs or Watford.

Séamus Coleman could have taken 2 – which he wears for Ireland – when Tony Hibbert retired but has stuck with 23, while Matteo Darmian opted for 36 upon arrival at Manchester United and remains there (he does wear 4 for Italy).

Man City have two right-backs – Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta – in their numerical first 11 but they wear 3 and 5 respectively. John Stones picked 24 rather than taking 2.

Tottenham, whose first-choice team wasn’t far off 1-11 last season, have 6 and 8 free, with Eric Dier and Dele Alli opting to keep their 15 and 20 respectively. Moussa Sissoko wouldn’t have been a bad fit at 8 but will wear 17, having been 7 at Newcastle United.

The guillotine for de Guzman; bravo Balotelli

It was a day of contrasts for those of us cursed with the affliction of thinking too much about shirt numbers. We’ll start with the bad news.

By and large, loan signings being given 1-11 numbers doesn’t sit hugely well with us, given the by-definition transient nature of it. When it’s a midfielder wearing 1, though, the levels of seething are quite high:

Jonathan de Guzman wears 15 for his parent club, Napoli. That’s free at Chievo Verona, along with 6, 7, 10 and 11, but he has decided that he should wear the number 1 – in a horrific font, we must add.

Oddly, it’s the opposite of a ruse pulled by the Italian club 14 years ago.

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De Guzman is not the first to commit the most egregious of crimes. Argentina’s Norberto Alonso and Osvaldo Ardiles, as well as the Netherlands’ Ruud Geels, have done it at World Cups in alphabetical numbering systems. We don’t have as big a problem with that, as it’s part of a holistic approach.

In British domestic football, the only club that we’re aware of to go full alphabetical  was Charlton Athletic in 1993-94, when Stuart Balmer wore 1 outfield (incidentally, a goalkeeper – Bob Bolder – was number 2, similar to Sheffield Wednesday’s batshit mental numbering this season):

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When Brian Clough was manager of Nottingham Forest, he began to wear an emerald green jumper on the sideline. The origins of this were as a result of him ensuring that his authority wasn’t usurped.

Having signed Peter Shilton for a record fee, he felt that the goalkeeper (and everyone else) needed reminding of who the boss was. At training one day, he donned a top in the colour traditionally worn by the keepers and said to Shilton:

There’s only one number 1 round here, and it’s not you.

Which was fine – Clough was unique, and generally backed up his bluster with results. As player-manager of Barnet in 2013, Edgar Davids wanted to make a similar statement, and felt that that was best achieved by actually wearing number 1 on the field.

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In the interests of fairness, we should point out that the inhabitant of 1 in 2013, Liam O’Brien, had left the club and so nobody was displaced by this decision. Unfortunately for Davids, it didn’t really have any inspirational effect as Davids was sent off three times before the end of December and resigned on January 18, 2014.

Scottish striker Derek Riordan left Hibernian to join Celtic in 2006, but returned to Edinburgh in 2008. In his first spell with Hibs, he had been number 10, but that was occupied by Colin Nish on his return, and so he went for a solution of sorts.

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For 2009-10, he was back in 10 and number 1 was taken by the new goalkeeper – Graham Stack, who would go on to be Davids’ first-choice at Barnet, albeit wearing 29.

A more interesting example – to our biased eyes – comes from the 2010 Gaelic football season. For Monaghan’s first game in the Ulster championship, goalkeeper Shane Duffy failed to heal from injury in time and, in a brave/unusual move, manager Séamus McEnaney decided to play full-back (the defender directly in front of goal – similar to how the term was used in football in the 2-3-5 days) Darren Hughes in goal. He wore the number 1 jersey left vacant by Duffy crying off, with a substitute wearing the full-back’s number 3.

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Monaghan won, and Hughes was retained in goal for the next game against Fermanagh, which they won as well. Meanwhile, Seán Gorman, who had been regarded as Duffy’s deputy, decided to withdraw from the panel. For the Ulster final against Tyrone, when the team was named three days beforehand, Hughes was listed at number 1 but, come game-day, he lined up outfield.

You might be confused as to why Hughes is still wearing blue, as in the first picture. Monaghan are normally white shirts and blue shorts, but Tyrone are white shirts and red shorts, so that 2010 Ulster final saw both teams change jerseys. Monaghan’s regular goalkeeper outfit is the same as the change kit. In this game, Duffy was able to wear the white in goal, number 16 on his back:

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Thankfully, the bullshit of de Guzman wearing 1 was slightly counter-balanced by The Universe.

Mario Balotelli enjoys wearing number 45. However, stricter rules at international level have seen him look conventional and his latest transfer, to OGC Nice, has meant a similar limitation applied.

As with La Liga in Spain, the French Ligue 1 employs some control on numbering. Goalkeepers must wear 1, 16 or 30 and higher numbers are only allowed if absolutely necessary.

The league’s rules state that ‘novelty’ numbers are not allowed (forgive Google Translate’s own rigidity):

Every Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 club must establish the number assignment list on Isyfoot 72 hours before the start of the competition. This list can not exceed 30 names, the number 30 is the last in the list may be supplemented and updated with every movement in the club. If a club justifies employ over 30 professional players under contract, the board may grant an exception to the preceding paragraph. Whimsical dials are prohibited (example: 45 – 82).

The numbers 1, 16 and 30 are exclusively and necessarily reserved for goalkeepers. Ultimately, the number 40 can be assigned. All teams must have a jersey with number 33 that is not assigned to a player and reserved for breaking replacements. A directory is established early in the season and available to referees and delegates by the LFP.

As a result, Balotelli has had to conform and, luckily, the number 9 is free. Hopefully, success in this digit will signal a turnaround in his career.

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The History of Numbers: Uruguay

We’ve already looked at how different numbering systems developed in Britain, Argentina, Brazil and Eastern Europe, and there is another historically distinct method which, it could be argued, is the most logical of all.

While they may not be a major power nowadays, Uruguay won two of the first four World Cups, including the inaugural edition as hosts in 1930. Shirt numbering wasn’t in operation then, but when it did come into widespread usage, Uruguay were the same as the rest of the world in numbering left-to-right in the old 2-3-5 system:

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Other countries transitioned from the 2-3-5 to four-man defences via the W-M, and that is where discrepancies in numbering arose, as different players would drop back in different countries, keeping their original number.

While the Uruguay team which won in 1950 in Brazil would have the front half of the W-M, they adapted differently in defence, moving directly from two men to four. As a result, it made sense for the right and left halves – numbers 4 and 6 respectively – to become wide defenders, outside the full-backs,  2 and 3. As in Argentina and Brazil, 5 remained as the midfield fulcrum.

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Over time, 7 and 10 would retreat to midfield to join 5 and 8, but by and large it’s a numbering system which remained strong in Uruguay, as can be seen from this line-up chosen at random, from a 1989 Copa America tie with Argentina:

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News of Andros Townsend’s switch – and proof of Chris Sutton’s

While changing numbers during the season is not uncommon in Spain, it remains a rarity in England. We did devote a previous post to the practice, and the conclusion was that it was permitted prior to the closing of the transfer window.

New Crystal Palace signing Andros Townsend availed of this option recently. Having been allocated 17 upon his arrival from Tottenham Hotspur, when Yannick Bolasie left to join Everton, the England winger sought to switch to 10:

The number 10 is one of the most iconic numbers in the game and with it becoming available I wanted to take the opportunity to snap it up. Hopefully I can do the number justice.

It’s not a perfect fit for a right midfielder, but we’ll let him off – he has, after all, made the de rigueur offer to reimburse any fans who had bought a number 17 shirt. The full story can be read here.

In the previous article, we mentioned a hazy memory of Chris Sutton swapping 16 for 9 during the 1996-97 season, but, beyond a mention here, proof was in short supply. The only way to satisfy ourselves was with snatched images from YouTube videos.

Sutton did indeed begin the season wearing the 16 he had had since joining from Norwich City for a record £5m fee – those were the days – in 1994. Here he is scoring against Derby early on in the season, which Blackburn began with just one in six games (and that at Old Trafford):

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We had assumed that the move would have been early in the season, but it appears that the arrival of Per Pedersen in the spring was the catalyst. Here he is with career caretaker manager Tony Parkes on the left (the number font is all wrong) and scoring against Chelsea on the right:

As luck would have it, Sutton actually missed a lot of this part of the season, but did return in time for its culmination. At Highbury, Blackburn trailed Arsenal 1-0 with the Gunners chasing second in the table but, after the ball was returned to the home side following an injury, Sutton pressured Nigel Winterburn into giving a corner, from which Garry Flitcroft scored.

Patrick Vieira wasn’t too happy with the now-9-clad Sutton, though oddly he wouldn’t be as interested in following protocol two years later when Nwankwo Kanu scored against Sheffield United in similar circumstances.

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Sutton continued to wear 9 for Blackburn until he joined Chelsea in 1999 and wore it for the Blues and Celtic too, finishing his career in the number 20 of Aston Villa after a spell as Birmingham City’s number 40.

Our OCD would like if the number-transferring had happened more in the 90s, but then these incidents wouldn’t be as noteworthy if they had.

The sometimes inconsistent squad numbers of Melchester Rovers

As part of a cross-blog series on Melchester Rovers, we decided to delve back 23 years to the beginning of the ill-fated relaunch of Roy Of The Rovers as a monthly comic.

Coincidentally, 1993 was also when the one-year-old Premier League decided to introduce squad numbers and the first issue of the monthly, with Roy Race coming to terms with the amputation of his left foot, references this new development as son Roy Jr (‘Rocky’) breaks into the squad.

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Rocky would make his debut against Felixstowe Town (basically an avatar for Ipswich – Museum of Jerseys will cover this in the near future), though unfortunately wouldn’t manage to mark it with a goal, instead being booked and then substituted. While the squad numbers were in effect, the shirts had no names and the numbers themselves were white, for the only time in the lifespan of the new comic. Rocky’s replacement was a unnamed player wearing number 12, who wouldn’t be seen again.

Issue 2 would revolve around Melchester signing another striker, Paul Ntende, and he would wear the number 14 for the duration of the strip. Img_5366.jpg

Come Christmas 1993 and those behind ROTR entered into an agreement with the makers of Shoot!, whereby the weekly magazine would run two pages of Roy in each edition. It was in this first instance of the collaboration that Johnny Dexter – a Melchester stalwart – first appeared in the new iteration, and not as likeable as he used to be.

It was also the first time that more information on the squad numbers was provided, by way of manager ‘Blackie’ Gray’s teamsheet for an upcoming FA Cup tie, where Rocky would make his comeback after a spell AWOL.

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However, one of the problems of running a strip across two publications was that more than one artist was needed, and the near two-year run saw a multitude of people on the pencil. As a result, consistency of details was hard to ensure.

Even the teamsheet above wasn’t gospel, as Dexter would always be seen wearing 6 on the pitch despite being listed as 25 (Neil Ruddock reference, perhaps?). Some artists had names on shirts, while Karl Brucker, who generally wore 4 in the old weekly, now appeared most often in 5, but sometimes 7 or 8.

Other inconstencies were were Kevin Clark sometimes being 11 and occasionally 13 (when it was unheard of for an outfield in the PL to do so), while the changing hair-colour must have worried him too:

In the spring of 1994, another teamsheet appeared and a reader wrote in to the comic to ask why there were two number 16s, with the reply being that Blackie Gray was ‘tired and emotional’ after a long season. It must also be the explanation for the degeneration of his handwriting.

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Wes Harper, one of the two 16s above, was listed as 18 in the other teamsheet, but on the pitch was always 16 (see below). The other 16, Steve Wooten, so central to the old weekly, was never actually seen in the monthly but would would re-appear in the late 90s when the strip was resurrected in Match Of The Day magazine. We would have to assume that, as the first-choice right-back, he was ‘really’ number 2.

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A non-Melchester occurrence came in the final edition of the monthly, in March 1995. Melchester were playing Teesbrough (Middlesbrough) in the FA Cup. Leaving aside the fact that an away kit should have been worn, the opposition have number 1 playing outfield – as Charlton Athletic did in 1993-94 – but generally the reason for this would be alphabetical numbering.

We’ll give them the benefit here and assume that Toley joined in a swap-deal with a player called Anderson or Allen or somesuch after the season started.

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That was it for ROTR for a few years, but in 1997 it came back as a two-pager in MOTD, running until that magazine stopped in 2001, when the BBC lost the rights to Premier League highlights.

This time round, the numbers were a bit more straightforward, though perhaps too boring and tidy – having gained promotion under the management of Roy Sr, the first team was the 1-11. The only deviation in the 5-3-2 was that, Wooten had kept 2 as he moved to centre-back, with Anton Gronvold wearing 4 at right wing-back (that’s something we enjoy).

In the summer of 1998, Blackie was on holidays in Ireland and a barman recommended a young local player to him, with he in turn suggesting to Roy that he sign him. That was Declan McKaffree (McCaffrey is far more common as a spelling in Ireland) and, really, as a teenager joining a top club from nowhere, he should have had a far higher number than 15.

Back-up goalkeeper Peter Marshall wore 12, with 13 left empty, presumably for superstitious reasons.

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Liverpool and Manchester United tidy up their squad numbers, 1996

We do enjoy when clubs ‘tidy up’ their numbers, i.e. the re-assignment of first-teamers with higher numbers. Arsenal giving Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey 7 and 8 respectively for the coming season is an example (though Granit Xhaka wearing 29 isn’t as nice), while Tottenham Hotspur’s re-jigging in the summer of 1999 was very pleasing.

As the days of 1-11 fade further, there is less of this re-allocation of numbers, with most one-off instances pushed by the player in question. In 1996, though, there was still a culture of wanting something close to the first XI in the lowest numbers and the two biggest clubs in England effected big alterations. Perhaps it’s unsurprising, given that Liverpool and Manchester United are already responsible for two of the widest-ranging articles on this site (here for Liverpool’s unique numbering system of the 70s-90s and here for the story of the United number 7).

In the spring of ’96, an Eric Cantona-inspired United were reeling in Newcastle United in the Premier League title race, while Liverpool – using what Johnny Giles had described as “a three-man back four” – were playing some exellent stuff, eventually winding up in third place in the table.

The clubs also made it to the FA Cup final, with Cantona’s goal giving United a 1-0 win to clinch the double. It is, to be fair, worth noting that that goal came in the 85th minute, and had more to do with David James’ uncertain goalkeeping than Liverpool’s choice of pre-match attire.

These are the way the sides lined out for the final (Liverpool wore a green-and-white quartered change kit but representing that would make the numbers harder to see, which is, after all, the point of the whole thing):

With both goalkeepers wearing 1, between them the sides had nine players numbered above 11, but, if the same two line-ups had met three months later, there would have been just two offenders:

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Let’s start with Liverpool. When Roy Evans decided to switch to a 3-5-2, it meant that Mark Wright (5) and Phil Babb (6) were joined by John Scales (12). Ideally, he would have taken 4 but Jason McAteer, playing right wing-back, had that, with number 2 Rob Jones switching to the left flank. Therefore, it made sense to give Scales 3, which had been vacant since Julian Dicks re-joined West Ham United during 1994-95.

In midfield, Jamie Redknapp, John Barnes and Steve McManaman somehow made an effective trio, despite the seeming lack of defending/attacking balance. Obviously, Barnes had been 10 since joining at the start of 1987-88, and 7 and 11 were empty after the departures of Nigel Clough and Mark Walters respectively. Looking at it objectively, Redknapp might have been a better fit for 7 but, given its mythology at Anfield, it made sense for McManaman to take that with Redknapp in 11.

The other switch was the most straightforward. Robbie Fowler had been 23 since his breakthrough in 1993-94, but with Ian Rush leaving after the final, Fowler to 9 was a no-brainer. More satisfying still was the re-tooling didn’t stop with the first XI, as Steve Harkness – whose brief loan spell with Hudderfield should have had more headline-love – moved from 22 to the 12 vacated by Scales, and Neil Ruddock swapped 25 for 14.

Sadly, the cup final side never played together again and we were robbed of seeing the 1-11 in action. Redknapp and Jones both suffered with injuries – the latter only made two appearances in 1996-97 – while Scales was sold to Tottenham. Incidentally, we have a clear memory of Liverpool trying something similar before 1994-95, with Ruddock moving to 6 and Fowler taking 12 among others, but we haven’t been able to locate the copy of Match magazine in which this news featured. If anyone out there has it, we’d be delighted if you got in touch.

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In the first three seasons in the squad-number era, none of the Manchester United 1-11 numbers had been worn by more than one player in the league. However, 8 and 10 lay idle for 95-96 after Paul Ince and Mark Hughes left, and in the summer of ’95 Alex Ferguson had a mini clean-up – Gary Neville moved from 27 to 20, Paul Scholes from 24 to 22 and David Beckham from 28 to 24. All three were key components of the double-winning side, though Neville and Scholes were on the bench in the cup final – Neville’s place taken by his brother Philip with Denis Irwin moving across to right-back.

Gary Neville was still a first-choice for England during Euro 96 and there was never any likelihood of his staying out of the United team for long, so when Paul Parker left that summer, he was the natural choice for the number 2 shirt. Club captain Steve Bruce also departed, so David May switched from 12 to Bruce’s 4, with Philip Neville taking 12. The younger Neville had previously been 23.

Nicky Butt, 19 for the previous three years, move to take Ince’s old number 8 shirt while Beckham was given 10. The only instance of a 1-11 player being moved to accommodate a change was Brian McClair switching from 9 to 13 to allow Andy Cole inherit it. He had previously been 17 and, perhaps strangely, this was now given to new reserve goalkeeper Raimond van der Gouw.

Scholes made another move, from 22 to 18, in a straight swap with Simon Davies (this one, not that one), indicating the contrasting directions they were heading. New signing Ronny Johnsen took over the number 19, but in the Champions League he wore 5, following Lee Sharpe’s transfer to Leeds United, and would take it over permanently from 1997-98 on. Also wearing different numbers in Europe were Scholes and Phil Neville, 12 and 28 respectively. Basically, it was to do with UEFA’s rules on ‘A’- and ‘B’-listed players.

Ben Thornley (29 to 23) and John O’Kane (30 to 24) completed the downward movements. The one notable exception was Roy Keane, who kept 16 when taking 5 on Sharpe’s exit would have seemed expected. Apparently, he was later offered 7 by Ferguson but declined as having a higher number kept him motivated to prove himself.

His status as one of the first names on the teamsheet, and the lack of a number 5 in the league, meant that opportunities for United to play 1-11 were limited. The closest they came was in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final at home to Porto when, with Keane absent, Ferguson went with a very adventurous side and was rewarded with a 4-0 victory.

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Rotherham endear themselves to us

Tell ya what, football’s back – and we have a new outside-the-Premier-League favourite team.

We only happened upon the tweet by chance this afternoon, but it sealed the deal for us as Rotherham United showed that clubs can still be civilised if they try:

If you were being very picky, you’d say that their midfield was 8-4-10-7 with 9 and 11 up front, but if that’s your first reaction then you probably can’t take any joy from anything.

Unfortunately for Rotherham, they lost an early 2-0 lead and had to settle for a point at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers, but they gained a fan, at least.

Any Owl number will do

In the same way that St Andrews holds a special place in the hearts of those who love golf, the announcement of the Sheffield Wednesday squad numbers should be a reverential annual occasion.

On August 25, 1928, the Owls were one of four teams to wear numbers, the first time they were seen in English football, while they also hold the honour of being there at the birth of domestic squad numbers in 1993. Imagine, then, the horror of seeing the list released by Wednesday for the 2016-17 season:

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Without any details other than numbers and names attached, the initial horror may not be apparent, apart from only six numbers less than or equal to 11 being occupied. Here, then, are the main takeaways:

  • Number 2, Joe Wildsmith, is a goalkeeper. He was 28 last season and Liam Palmer – who has played at right-back – has moved from 2 to 16 to accommodate this. We’ve mentioned before that we don’t like the practice.
  • Sam Hutchinson has moved from 4 to 23.
  • Attacking midfielder Kieran Lee will wear 5, having previously been 20. Centre-back Glenn Loovens has swapped 5 for 12.
  • New signing Steven Fletcher – a centre-forward – will wear 6. He has form for disrespecting numbers, having switched from 9 to 26 at the start of last season when he was at Sunderland.
  • Another new signing, attacking midfielder Almen Abdi, has been given 8. We’re not sure how such an example of normality crept in there.
  • The former owner of 8, Filipe Melo, has gone to 22, while Marco Matias is trying to become three times the player he was, transferring from 7 to 21.
  • Austrian striker Atdhe Nuhiu was 9 last season, but will now don number 44.
  • Lucas Joao has moved from 18….to 19.

Thankfully, Wednesday fans didn’t take too kindly to this whole farrago.

Rebran9ing exercise for Antony Martia11?

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When the Manchester United numbers for the coming season were announced, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s inheritance of number 9 seemed to tick a couple of logical boxes.

The Swedish striker had been 10 at previous club Paris St-Germain but United captain Wayne Rooney was never likely to surrender that. While the expected departure of Juan Mata would free up 8, we have a feeling that if that does happen then Morgan Schneiderlin is waiting to nip in. Had 7 – that most storied of United numbers – been taken away from Memphis Depay after just one season, it would have felt like a demotion but there was wiggle-room with the other number normally associated with wingers.

When Ryan Giggs retired, his famous number 11 (he didn’t always wear it, though) was passed on to Adnan Januzaj, whose move from 44 seemed to signal that he was about to take the stage in a big way. It hasn’t worked out like that for him, though, and his long-term future at the club is up in the air.

As a result, his move to 15 was, dare we say it, meritorious and the moving of Antony Martial to 11, freeing up 9 for Ibrahimovic, as he had worn with Ajax and in his under-performing stay Barcelona, had a tidy overall look. After all, the Frenchman wears 11 for his country and it appears to be a better fit with the position which suits him best.

Except, Martial himself is not a happy bunny, especially given that he had gone to the trouble of trademarking ‘AM9’. Of course, he could just follow in the footsteps of Cristiano Ronaldo and have a contingency plan. We’d imagine that things will get sorted and calm down once everyone’s back playing football.

Elsewhere, there wasn’t too much of note with the MUFC numbers. Apparently, 6 is being kept for Paul Pogba while centre-back Eric Bailly took 3 – blame him if you will but he wouldn’t have been able to do so if Luke Shaw hadn’t been allowed away with moving from 3 to 23. While 2 is free, Matteo Darmian is resolutely sticking with 36.

The Martial incident was discussed on BBC Radio 5’s Monday Night Club (go to 52:45), and on a tangential subject, John Motson made the point that there should be a Premier League rule as there is in Spain, that squads should be numbered 1-25. We live in vain hope.