Salzburg’s winter violets in full bloom

FOR THE first time since we happened upon Austria Salzburg’s table-topping antics, Leeds United at last have an enviable lead over their promotion rivals too. But as we gorged ourselves on Leeds’ festive frolics, the Austrian winter break meant all they could do was cast an awestruck gaze in our direction while thinking about putting up those bloody shelves, just as the missus was promised sodding ages ago.

In October, with the winter nights drawing in, Austria Salzburg locked horns with PSV, the side they endured a brief fling with as a consequence of their rejection of Red Bull’s rebranding in 2005. Their support was initially welcomed by PSV, only to be shunned just days after it had supplied the impetus to avert a near-certain relegation. After three consecutive promotions from as low as the Austrian game goes, those same dedicated souls were merciless in thrashing the backstabbers by six goals to nil.

The term had begun quietly with a home friendly against Notts County back in July, when even less was fathomable about that particular club’s ownership than it is now. Who would’ve guessed that they were about to attract the corrosive influence of Sven-Goran Eriksson? Or that Sol Campbell would’ve seen through it all after a just one game? And who could’ve known that the funny little glyph underpinning the club’s brand new badge was in fact the logo of its holding company?

It’s precisely the sort of crass ownership stunt Austria Salzburg stand against – and please, if it is somehow legal in the English game (and my query on the matter remains unanswered by the Football League), nobody but nobody tell Ken Bates. That’s assuming, of course, that Forward Sports Fund really are more than just the sort of individual The Members once described “sitting at a desk with a plaque outside on the wall,” and actually have a logo of some description.

Anyway, where was I? Ah, yes. Football.

Held under a roof on a squeaky floor, the 2010 Salzburger Stier might not be as important as the outdoor game, but the tournament – played before a baying mob of beered-up blokes – which concludes today neatly overlaps its seasonal British equivalent: darts. And as everybody knows, darts is precisely what the new year’s all about.

It’ll be the end of March before Austria Salzburg resume a 4th division season in which 12 wins from 15 games has placed them 5 points clear at the top, so their intrepid fans will just have to wait until the resumption of what, in Waddellian terms, is the greatest comeback since Lazarus.

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