Football's greatest April Fool pranks

10) Butch Cassidy buys Forest Green Rovers
Twinkly-eyed icon Paul Newman made millions from Hollywood, ran a hugely successful motor racing team and created a salad dressing empire. But one thing was apparently missing from his life - owning a Hellenic League football team.

This, at least, was what Gloucestershire newspaper readers were told on the morning of April 1 1981, as part of a cruel hoax apparently perpetrated by fans of a rival club.

9) Maradona dating Madonna
This one misfired badly for the Naples TV company behind it in 1989, as Diego Armando's well connected 'friends' in the area forced the station into a grovelling on-air apology. The drug-snorting Hand Of God merchant wasn't pleased by suggestions that he might actually be cheating on his missus.

But how good would a wedding between the two superstars have been? Goodbye Ms Ciccone, hello Madonna Maradona!

8) Pink kits and new names
On Fool's Day 2005, Bristol Rovers thought it would be tremendous fun to fool fans by unveiling hoax new strip in shocking pink on the Pirates' website. But the joke kit proved so popular Rovers actually introduced it as a third strip, giving part of the proceeds from each shirt to charity.

Similarly, an 2008 prank by Accrington Stanley which claimed they would be rebranding as Lancashire Stanley United drew a positive response from fans probably heartily sick of people repeating that bloody milk advert to them.

7) Awful anthems

Double comedy gold from our pals at The Sun last April 1. Not only did they suggest that England would have to sit through a six-minute Ukrainian anthem before their match at Wembley, but just for good measure they claimed the Iceland anthem would be warbled at Hampden by none other than Kerry Katona. Please! My sides! My sides!

6) The unqualified successes
Portuguese despair at missing the upcoming 1998 World Cup was temporarily relieved by a national radio report on April 1 claiming that they had been reinstated into the tournament after Iran withdrew because of security concerns.

Of course, we'd never fall for such an obvious ruse over here - apart from the fan who booked an American holiday in 1994 after Eurosport 'revealed' that Greece had pulled out of the World Cup in protest after Fifa officially recognised Macedonia, and their place had ben given to Graham Taylor's bunglers.

5) The Greek tragedy
On April 1 2003, Rangers fans were delighted to learn from the club's official website of that Alex McLeish had just spent £10m on a Greek striker, Yardis Alpolfo of Galatasaray.

4) It sticks in the Croat
Croatia's top news website caused Orson Welles-style panic on the streets in 2006 after claiming the country had been expelled from the 2006 finals for refusing to hand over wanted war criminal Ante Gotovina to the UN.

3) Referees in sense of humour shock
Each time matches are played on  April 1, Football League chiefs and refs ensure that officials with similar names are grouped together. In 2006, the Coventry v Preston game was overseen by Mike Pike, with Bob Pollock and Eric Mackrell running the lines, while Mansfield v Oxford featured linesmen Phil Bramley and James Cox.

2) Johnny Rep's deadly chopper
In one of the most bizarre April Fool's hoaxes ever, the Holland winger's international team-mates Robbie Rensenbrink and Willem van Hanegem convinced a Dutch TV station that Rep had died in a helicopter crash during the morning of April 1, 1977. A day of national mourning was averted only when Rep called the channel to protest that, like Mark Twain, reports of his death had been greatly exaggerated.

1) The WW1 bomb
On April 1, 1915 a brave French pilot flew over the German trenches on April 1, 1915 and dropped a circular bomb, causing soldiers to flee in all directions. Yet no explosion followed and when they returned, they found a football with a note attached reading 'Poisson D'Avril' - French for April Fool.

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williamhill.com

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