The football ABC: Adolf, Bruno and Chelsea

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Hitler, The Times and Schalke

Having fallen for the Hitler diaries, you would have thought The Times would check its facts before declaring here that Adolf Hitler was the worst famous football fan ever and informing readers that “the Fuhrer had a soft spot for Schalke who, funnily enough, were German champions six times between 1933 and 1945.”

Hitler’s soft spot was so extensive that, until the 1936 Olympics, he had never watched a football match. Agonising over which sport to grace with his presence at this showcase, he opted to watch Germany vs Norway.

After six minutes, the Norwegians were 1-0 up and Goebbels noted: “The Fuhrer is very agitated. I almost unable to control himself.”

Hitler’s agitation overcame him in the 85th minute when, utterly against the run of play, Norway scored a second and he stormed off in a huff. As Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger notes in his book Tor!, this defeat so turned the Nazis against football that they didn’t even bother to ask the German FA to fire the manager Otto Nerz.

Nerz (centre) rests easy 

If Hitler liked Schalke so much, why didn’t he ask Nerz to build the German team around them? In 1925, the Gelsenkirchen club had pioneered a short passing game known as the Schalke Kreisel (literally "spinning top").

Yet Ernst Kuzorra, that team’s greatest player, only won 12 caps for Germany. Nerz, bizarrely, didn’t like the Schalke style, preferring the fast, physical attacking style of English football.

Sometimes, the influence of politics on football is not as simple as it appears. Yes, Schalke were German champions six times between 1934 and 1942. But they did so chiefly because they had one of the strongest teams their country has ever produced.

Bruno, Bruno!

Sorry Harry, but the Bruno in question isn’t Frank, it’s the Portuguese genius Bruno Aguiar whose class in the middle for Hearts was key to their 2-1 triumph over Rangers. Aguiar carved Rangers open with set pieces and his speciality – a long free-kick curled into the area at the opposing keeper with height and pace – was just too much for the Gers.

Aguiar celebrates; Hibees are less chuffed

In the pre-match interview I could only just make out what Hearts’ Hungarian boss Csaba Laszlo was trying to say. But he must get his point across to his players: in two years as Uganda coach, he helped them climb 76 places in the FIFA rankings. And if he can find a striker in January, Hearts could become the third force in Scottish football

Conquering Wembley

At Alwyns Lane, Chertsey, Wembley Town’s coaches were grumbling about their team’s deficiencies on set pieces.

On a damp, dark, freezing Saturday afternoon, Chertsey Town, the most unpredictable team in the Combined Counties League premier division, beat struggling Wembley Town 3-1 to end a poor run which had seen them win one in five.

The third goal, a superbly worked corner benefitted from some zombie-like defending by the visitors.

Wembley, who played in the famous old Ajax strip, were gifted a late penalty. Even that couldn’t damp Chertsey’s spirits. Their coach Matt Paterson shouted at Aaron McLeish, a pacy forward who can dazzle with his dribbling, “Go and get another!” McLeish shook his head and moaned: “I haven’t got one yet. Should have had a hat-trick.”

Wembley Town were formed in 1946, partly because it seemed a bit rubbish for the famed home of the hallowed turf not to have its own football team. The Lions, as they are known, don’t play at Wembley but at Yale Farm.

I was curious to hear if they had any interesting songs – a variation on “Whatever will be will be/We’re going to Wembley” perhaps – but the away fans were too sparse and too miserable to sing.

No such thing as a free credit crunch

Unexpected benefits of the credit crunch, No.1: Roman Abramovich has had to shrink Chelsea’s scouting network. This will, the press suggests, mean curtains for Frank Arnesen, the club’s sporting director, slammed for failing to produce a Blue Fabregas or Rooney.

Arnesen (left): Hard done to? 

Spotting and developing the right young players is still a dark art. Even Arsene Wenger, better at it than most, bumbled on Jose Antonio Reyes, although the Spaniard had been watched 45 times by Arsenal before they bought him.

And although Abramovich recognised that to become a proper football club, Chelsea had to grow its own talent, the pressure on his managers has made it hard for them to do an Arsene and play the youngsters in the Carling Cup.

Many of Arnesen’s signings may fail – that's par for the course in youth development – but have any really had a decent chance to prove they could be the new Wayne Rooney?

Good Times with Tony

Having slagged The Times off, I’ll close by doing something I try to as little as possible: agree with their columnist Tony Cascarino.

But in a column bemoaning the style of many mid-table Premiership clubs he noted: “Here's the standard Premier League substitution: if you are behind, bring on a forward; if you are winning, take off a forward.”

The Big Four may look likely to reach the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that we have all become master tacticians.

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