THE domestic football season - barring the leviathan that is the Premier League and not forgetting last night's Championship opener between Blackburn and Cardiff - starts in earnest today.

In the professional English set-up, 70 clubs enter a myriad of arenas, hopefully freshly-minted and re-occupied by ardent fans, today accompanied by all the customary first-day fervour, fever and for some...fear of what's to come.

Two of the big guns also fire initial salvos tomorrow when premiership champions Manchester City and FA Cup winners Arsenal collide in the Community Shield at Wembley.

That encounter will also include on these shores for the first time the use of the now you see, now you don't free-kick spray that added a new dimension to the summer's largely irritatingly irksome World Cup.

The spray is like a disappearing abacus in that when it's done at least it shows to the players just how far the ten yards actually is for them to retreat at a free-kick. So no encroaching, unless you happen to be World Cup hosts Brazil, who got away with murder before their annihilation by eventual winners Germany in that spiffing seven-up semi-final.

As was witnessed in Brazil the sprayed white lines remain on the turf for less than minutes before...phuf, they fade away into oblivion.

Oh for such a vanishing trick to be applied to other footballing matters before the whole rigmarole envelops us all for another nine months.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, there now follows my own bothersome bugbears which I'd love to see enveloped in vanishing spray.

The first is tattoos. Now I know there's more ink on footballers' limbs than in the Bodliean Library, but purlease, no more of the skin furniture. You see action of footballers tangling and it's like a whirr of dot-to-dot colouring books as decorated arms flail about with torsos also revealing spattered patterns and pertinent messages in Sanskrit.

Such hurly-burly hues play havoc with my peepers and that's not even taking into account the garishness of some team's kits.

Home and away I can take, even almost accept - though not the change every season. But third kits or European strips or playing attire specifically for when you are appearing in a cup competition. (That's not yet happened, but give it time for those marketing departments to devise another scam sorry unveiling).

Perhaps one solution would be for players to have their kits tattooed on their bodies. Such a one-two combination would save a hell of lot on the laundry bill, though it could give an entirely new meaning to the skill of slide tackling.

Now that strips and tats have been dealt with, how about boots.

Look lads, what is wrong with basic black. I know you are all fools, sorry foils to lucrative merchandising deals with footwear companies, who ply you with the latest in panda-skin breathable technology with air-holes, ventricles and even ermine-lined internal socks to stop your tootsies from chafing, but do you you actually look in the mirror?

Yellow boots - yuk. Right boot purple, left boot pink - really time to get a grip. Polka-dotted boots - purlease. Clad in such footwear footballers' feet resemble nothing more than a playground break at clown school.

Back to black has got to be the

Another issue that truly gets my Shaun Goater. Will players who know they have conceded a corner-kick or throw-in not appeal vigorously that the ball mysteriously cannoned off three opposition bodies?

And speaking of cheating, no more rolling around the turf when you've been fouled, or even worse, just tackled. Despite all the efforts of powers-that-be, football is a man's game, so unless you've broken a bone and not sweat, unless you've frcatured your skull and not an eyelash, then get on with it.

Now all I need is one of those big cans of vanishing spray. Fat chance? Well, at least Howard Webb won't be reffing any more Liverpool games in future.


BEFORE signing off this first column covering the new football season, I'd just like to end on a far more serious note.

This week I was among scores of people who attended the funeral of York City club historian Dave Batters.

After a fittingly sincere service, there were many tributes from friends, one of which stuck in my mind.

John Dyson, a former Rowntree's work colleague of Dave, said: "There are always people of whom you can say he was 'a good lad'. But Dave genuinely was 'a good lad' who never had a bad word to say about anybody."

Dave Batters, Mr York City, you were a true gentleman. Farewell.