Robinson Heath's
Technosoccer Clinic

Greetings to all soccer lovers, from your old friend Robinson Heath stateside. My latest subject under examination is something that no self-respecting soccerist would be without. In fact, here in downtown Illinois, people come up to me at the University of Soccer to ask how your players can go into a match with so little of it compared to American footballers. Well, I'd just advise them to read on.

Among the items of technosoccer equipment utilised by the modern day practitioner of the beautiful game are those two which protect the very raison d'etre of the footballer. Their importance was first made clear to me by that famous English soccer boss, Tommy Manager on his lecture tour of the US of A following his departure as part time assistant coach at Byfleet Rovers. A poor placing in the Kit-E-Kat/Caesar League Junior Division 5 meant that the governing committee reluctantly had to release him from his contract by tearing up the bus ticket that it was written on the back of. As Tommy reminisced, it struck home that the "young boys, coats for goalposts, rolled up newspapers for shinpads", were the very building blocks of the game of soccer. One can only assume that in the early days, the players used the equivalent of tabloids. A copy of the New York Times shoved down your stockings could lead to you taking a stationary position while the action whizzed around you. (Akin to being in David Platt's boots I would guess). However, should you, by same strange happenstance, manage to connect with the ball, it would have all the force of a Babe Ruth slug and would carry the goaltender who got in the way from Iowa to Indiana.

The original shinpads were made from buckskin and spare ribs (collected from the first wave of local ethnic eating places) which were very effective with a tensile factor of 0.84. There was one drawback and that was the fact that when in receipt of a heavy tackle, the ribs broke producing a fearful crack. This, on more than one occasion, masked the sound of the player's tibia snapping into two, leaving them to complete the period of play by hobbling around considering the cost of a new shinpad, oblivious to the fact that their career was hanging in the balance.

Things progressed to the inclusion of steel reinforcing rods to provide greater tensile resistance. Much usage of these rods made them subject to failure due to wet shinpads causing rusting of the steel. A stainless steel version was developed and tested by players of Sheffields Wed. and Uted (sic), but was discontinued after playing Coventry, when the rods were robbed from the pads and melted down to form a 48 piece cutlery set.

Whalebone has always been a popular material as it has good strength (factor 0.79) and flexibility (0.87). The product had became scarce in the 80 's due to extensive campaigning by environmental groups against the practice of whaling. However, in 1994, FIFA decreed that all players must wear shinpads during matches. This seemed to have been instigated by the evil South American Soccer Dictator "Baron" Joe Havealozenge, who, for some completely unconnected reason, seems very keen to stage the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and also is alleged to head a shinpad manufacturing company in upstate Nagoya. A case for the X-Files maybe?????

Initial tests with carbon-fibre proved unreliable and during matches, the BBC World Service could often be heard emanating from the players hosiery. Representations were made to the PFA by the more hip and swinging players, to campaign for Radio 1FM, but this proved to be beyond the boffins in "Techno-Production" and so the project faltered. The light-weight nature of the pads and the inherent resistance to any force implied made them favourites among the soccer family, but another innovation doomed to fail alongside this was soon to raise it's head.

The rubber-coated shinpad was designed to reflect the energy involved in the challenge, but what resulted was a large number of ligament and tendon injuries to the parties inflicting their tackles on the wearer. Unfortunately, the 'Biter Bit' pads were consigned to the soccer trashcan.

Other variants included lead-lined pads (ideal for protecting Superman from Kryptonite, but you would have needed to be him to run in them), Teflon coated shinpads (designed to have the blow slide harmlessly off, but disadvantageously also meant that defenders socks would not stay up and strikers sped past the unfortunate backman trying to return their hose to their proper position) and Velcro-coated pads (which saw the return of the bucket of water to the trainer's armoury as he threw it over players who had become entangled after a challenge to try and separate them); perhaps it was just as well that none of these developed beyond their early trials and tribulations.

The modern example of this soccer accessory has been developed in the high-tech laboratories of the Dexter Corporation. Exhaustive tests on the one-piece plastic and foam creations produce results which are now measured an the Jones scale as seen at the foot of the page.

These new improvements to the legwear have been seen as a market opportunity for manufacturers and efforts have been made to inform the players of how bodacious they are. Here in the U S of States, one producer paid thousands of US Dollars to the ad men in Madison Avenue to come up with a winning name for their pads. They were quite shocked to find out that although it reflected their fantastic properties, when English buyers arrived they were reduced to tears when they heard that they were called "Brillo". Happily, this matter was soon cleaned up. Further to the award of the 1994 World Cup Series to the USA, one company tried to market protective wear for the exclusive use of the Republic of Ireland. But this venture came to nought when the product name of "Shinpaddys" had Jack Charlton's Green and White Army up in arms.

As the game heads toward the 21st Century, here at the Technosoccer facility, we are constantly striving to come up with the blend of strength and lightness that is the prime requirement by the multitudinous participants of the beautiful game. It is hoped that with the new material of Kellytonium (having the density of two short planks without the width of view) and our recently discovered Millichip technology, it may soon be possible to produce a shinpad that players don't even realise they are wearing. However, they will come with a warning that forgetting to put them on could affect their health.

So, until next time, keep on soccering !!

Robinson Heath


The Jones scale of tackling impact analysis
(undertaken by the Wimbledon School of Hard Knocks)












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