Sutton United
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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League

'Jermainia' descends on Sunderland

Toe Poke

Warnock asks for 'minute's booing'

Toe Poke

Having a ball

Total 90 Aerow ball - Nike

On hearing that the official Premiership match ball had been extensively tested by 'Bigfoot' there was a moment's fear that Peter Crouch's inexorable movement towards centre stage in the English game had taken another giant stride.

But further investigation revealed that this particular foot is not attached to a telescopic leg of the Liverpool and England formerly goal-shy forward, but is in fact a machine designed to replicate the consistent pounding said sphere would take across an average season.

For over 100 hours at the University of Washington Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Nike's latest offering was the subject of the kind of punishment usually handed out to visiting shins at Ewood Park. The cold war space race was useful for something, then, after all.

The distinctive concentric circles, it is suggested, make it easier for players to pick out the flight of the ball in a crowded backdrop rather than being for aesthetic purpose alone, but it is the way it plays rather than looks - as fans of Wayne Rooney will testify - that is of greatest import and, as you would hope, they seem to have nailed it.

Two years in the lab and some time on the training grounds of the top European teams from Manchester to Milan have produced a ball that is both resilient and true over a prolonged period of use, on the Sunday league bogs as much as the bowling green Premiership pitches.

And now for the science: collectively termed as 'patented Geo technology and outercoating with aerodynamic properties' - a pigs bladder this is not - the ball contains Zote foam (no, me either), not one but two levels of vulcanised rubber, a pattern of microscopic grooves etched in the Teijan casing and a high strength webbing support layer; crikey.

So what does all that mean? Well, the former produces a spring effect designed to increase power of shots whilst the latter makes it hard wearing and durable, of course.

It plays consistently well (unlike this particular reviewer) and doesn't scuff into a useless lump after a couple of weeks on hard courts (unlike etc ... and on). But most importantly of all, even if you can't play like a professional, with one of these under your arms you can at least look like you know what you're doing. Until kick-off anyway.