WSC readers and fanzine editors weight up the season to come

BIRMINGHAM

John Tandy

How will your team do next season?
At best mid table; at worst it’ll end in tears.

Who will be the single most important person at your club?
Probably the combination of owners and the Chief Executive. The names of the club and the stadium are up for sale, so by the time you read this I may well be watching Atletico Notcutts Garden Centre at the Bordesley Family Butchers Stadium (except if that ever happens, I won’t be). There’s money at the club, but it still has to be spent astutely.

If you had to come up with a new piece of merchandise to sell at the club shop what would it be?
A Mark McGhee dartboard would sell like hot cakes.

Which player at your club most divides the home support and why?
Probably, I’m afraid, Paul Furlong. There are those who say that he’s workshy, ineffective and inadequate – and there are those that really don’t like him at all.

What one thing would you most like to change about the matchday environment? I’d quite like the football to be more interesting.

BRADFORD

David Pendleton

How will your team do?
Hopefully a large dose of mid-table mediocrity. Last season’s relegation dog-fight was exciting, but not again please.

Most important figure?
The manager, Chris Kamara - he went mad with the Bosman signings. However, he might have the last laugh as thelater imports have adapted well, notably Swede Robelt Steiner and the darling of the Valley Parade crowd, Edinho – a Brazilian striker with an uncanny ability to get outrageously fouled.

New piece of merchandise?
Blow up Geoffrey Richmonds (City’s larger than life Chairman), handy for crossing the Atlantic or as barrage balloons in the event of war.

Which player most divides the support?
Richard Liburd, wingback. His odd running style and ability to get hopelessly out of position attracts the wrath of certain sections of the crowd. However, Richard won many of his detractors over late last season when he headbutted a niggly Charlton player (appropriately in injury time). Not that we condone such incidents...

Change to matchday environment?
The tannoy announcer. He seems to think that he is some kind of celebrity and constantly refers to City as “the pride of Yorkshire”, which is acutely embarrassing when the team is languishing in the bottom three.

BURY

Chris Bainbridge

How will your team do?
Last season we surprised everyone by going up. This season we’ll surprise everyone by not being relegated. Just about.

Most important figure?
Stan Ternent, Bury’s most successful manager in living memory. The fact that Ternent and assistant manager Sam Ellis are not under contract does not fill supporters with confidence, though.

New piece of merchandise?
A wax model of Granada TV presenter Elton Welsby, complete with pins.

Change to matchday environment?
Instead of going in for gimmickry (we now have our very own official mascot, Robby the Bobby, named after the Bury-born founder of the police force Robert Peel) the club should be doing more work on the stadium, increasing capacity by three or four thousand and making it easier to get in and out. We used to congratulate ourselves on having “one of the best grounds in the lower divisions”. Now we’ll be visiting places that make our ground look like Plough Lane.

CHARLTON

Rick Everitt

How will your team do?
Better than last year’s 15th or else! Alan Curbishley has spent £2 million in the last 12 months – big dosh by our standards. With Clive Mendonca and Matt Holmes coming in the team has the potential to do very well, which knowing Charlton probably means they will be relegated. As the kiss of death, I’ll go for top eight.

New piece of merchandise?
Millwall’s season video from either of the last two year would provide plenty of laughs. But it still has to be a Ron Noades dart board for me, preferably featuring his face after they lost to us at The Valley last season. See you soon, Ron!

Which player most divides the support?
Carl Leaburn. Some of us think he should join another club and the rest just wish he’d retire. He’s done a job for Charlton, despite the ridicule he’s received. But both he and we need a change now.

Change to matchday environment?
Unfortunately, Charlton adopted a policy of deafening people via the tannoy last season, just when the crowd was showing signs of coming to life after years of rigor mortis. Some like the noise, it’s true, but what’s the point of going to football if you can’t hear yourself moan at half-time? I also think the hired-in stewarding needs putting in its place.

CREWE

Jules Hornbrook

How will your team do?
Okay, so I’m ludicrously optimistic: top six, a place in the play-offs and promotion to the top flight. Small ground, small players and a small but perfectly formed manager. Big train station, mind.

Most important figure?
Dario has his moments, but young Seth Johnson, who has a refreshingly old fashioned footballer’s name, will emerge as the next England captain. Quality utility player who’ll be our greatest export within two seasons – £3 million.

New piece of merchandise?
How about some replica tops? New away kits aren’t due in until late July – and Adidas make them! We think small and it’s very frustrating.

Change to matchday environment?
Mr Tannoy Man could do with a sense of humour, but the best half-time entertainment would see supporters issued with rotten vegetables to pelt our pathetic mascot Grr-esty the Lion. His head falls off and he doesn’t give me sweets.

HUDDERSFIELD

Justin Dyson


How will your team do?
I’ll go with the unadventurous prediction of 11th place in Div One, 4th Round in both cups.

Most important figure?
Brian Horton. If he can sort out his tactics and motivational skills we’ll do well. If not, then he’ll end up getting the boot...either way, what he does is how our season will go...

New piece of merchandise?
How about a dart board with Brian Horton’s picture on it?

Which player most divides the support?
Has to be Andy Payton...we need his goals, but do we need his attitude, and apparent lack of intensity?

Change to the matchday environment?
Definitely the 4th stand getting built so that all the rowdies can get together (me included) and make some noise to create a resemblance of atmosphere...

IPSWICH

Philip Ham

How will your team do?
We will be promoted. We played so well at the end of last season and were so unlucky not to go up through the play-offs that this year is surely our year.

Most important figure?
David Sheepshanks, our chairman. If he decides to accept offers for our best young players (Wright, Scowcroft, Taricco etc) our season will be over and so, possibly, will his popularity with the fans. But he’s not going to do that, is he?

New piece of merchandise?
Bluey the Punch wigs. As you presumably know Ipswich is a punk rock town with even Bluey the Suffolk Punch, the mascot, having a lovely mohican.

Which player most divides the support?
Geraint Williams, a midfielder in the Batty mould. Unfortunately he averages under one goal a season and his passing is at times (most times) woeful. The shout of “Williams!!!?!?” is one of the most common sounds in the North Stand.

Change to matchday environment?
Having nearly been sued by our erstwhile stadium announcer we should make no comments regarding the current incumbent. However the Town ought to stop coming onto the pitch to the Star Wars theme segued with ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’.

MAN CITY

Steve Parish

How will your team do?
Optimism is high this season. We expect to keep the same manager all through the campaign.

Most important figure?
Kinkladze – the hype to get him to stay could only be justified if he turns it on in most matches (or if others find the gaps when he’s marked out of it).

New piece of merchandise?
We’ve got it. We’ve dumped Umbro and got a new kit by Kappa. It’s cool to wear blue (even if the new shade is too dark for some purists). But we’ve somehow acquired a sans-serif version of the Austrian imperial eagle on the club crest, which might offer some scurrilous variations on a “When eagles follow the trawler” theme for T-shirts.

Which player most divides the support?
Nicky Summerbee divides us into those who think he can play a bit but is just lazy and boo him, those who think the same but don’t boo, and those who still keep calling him Mike.

Change to matchday environment?
The best change would be to win some matches.

MIDDLESBROUGH

Harry Pearson


How will your team do?
Promoted. (We can’t afford not to be.)

Most important figure?
The chairman, Steve Gibson.

New piece of merchandise?
A large handkerchief celebrating last season’s unprecedented treble.

Which player most divides the support?
Mikkel Beck. Because he is young, tries hard, put up with Ravanelli’s perpetual moaning and face-pulling last season without one complaint and is totally clueless.

Change to matchday environment?
Maybe it’s a sign of getting old, but the music always seems too loud to me.

NORWICH CITY

Joe Ferrari

How will your team do?
The capture of genial, gap-toothed colossus Iwan Roberts from Wolves has prompted a surge of optimism. If new dad Darren Eadie can handle the 4am nappy changes, we’ll have an attack capable of lifting us to a top six finish. Crewe v Norwich play-off mate, now there’s a Wembley showpiece.

Most important figure?
It’s got to be the ‘Silver Fox’ (Mike Walker to you) whose decision to introduce a punchbag to the City training ground last year helped us have more players sent off than anyone else in history. Stick to the tactical brilliance, Mike – we all know you’re hard.

New piece of merchandise?
Replica team shirts. Director Delia Smith’s “sensational coup” in getting Bruce Oldfield to design our new strip has backfired horribly, with the manufacturers forced to admit that it won’t be ready until 3rd September. One of the rumours circulating is that Mr Oldfield originally chose material which can only be dry-cleaned.

Which player most divides the support?
None since Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s summer swoop for Ian ‘One great pass per game to remind you of the good old days and then wake me up when it’s over’ Crook.

Change to matchday environment?
We need more humiliating student-filled costume characters like old favourites, Canary and Dumpling. Eventually we could build up a whole menagerie of bedraggled, feathery goons to caper amusingly in front of the away fans. I’m filled with pride just thinking of it.

NOTTM FOREST

Al Needham


How will your team do?
Best case scenario – a cracking start inspires a few decent signings, a distant second to Middlesbrough, hopefully avoiding the ‘lottery of the play-offs’. Worst case scenario – a team in transition takes Route One up its own arse. I’m scared, Mam...

Most important figure?
Dave Bassett holds our collective genitalia in his Cockney fist. Do we go up playing like the cloggers we’ve always detested, or behave like stylish wasps on the windowsill, hovering to and fro in the middle of the table?

New piece of merchandise?
If we start hoofing the ball about like Wimbledon, we urgently need to counterbalance this with a ‘Crazy Gang’ mentality that Football Focus can flog to death when the Premiership has a weekend off. Solution? The Nombles! A book-TV-action figure crossover featuring a gang of lumbering, er, things led by Great Uncle Bermondsey who scours the country for rubbish – and then signs them for £2.5M.

Which player most divides the support?
Van Hooydonk is bringing terrifying flashbacks of S(a)tan Collymore – he’s either a saviour or a lazy sod, and he was the only player who bothered staying on the pitch to applaud the fans the day we went down. Half the crowd streamed on to touch the hem of his Umbro top, the other half pursed their lips like your Auntie did when the Sex Pistols were on Top Of The Pops.

Change to matchday environment?
Well, a ‘big match atmosphere’ would be nice. Last time we went down there was a real crusade-type attitude amongst the supporters, harnessed with the novelty of paying less to see teams like Southend. This time I fear apathy may set in.

OXFORD UTD

Piers Pennington


How will your team do?
After selling Matt Elliott to Leicester, Oxford struck solid relegation form for the second half of last season. Survival is the best we can really hope for, especially with the uncertainties over the move to a new ground. Finishing above Swindon and a couple of decent home cup draws would be a bonus.

Most important figure?
Allegedly, Benetton bigwig Flavio Briatore – or anybody else willing to sort out the shambles over the club’s ownership and the delays in moving from the Manor. Fittings for concrete slippers would be in order (though some would say Martin Gray already has his).

New piece of merchandise?
For Minchery Farm (the farm in question being a sewage one), those face masks worn by cyclists to keep out the traffic fumes.

Which player most divides the support?
Nigel Jemson. A striker bought for only £60,000 who scores 23 goals in a season might expect a fair amount of adulation, but in Nigel’s case words like lazy, arrogant, moody and even Moody (as in the deposed and now departed Paul) have been bandied about. Clever Denis Smith showed us what a fat useless striker really looked like by taking Marco Gabbiadini on loan.

Change to matchday environment?
Bring back the Manorettes (for the over-forties only).

PORT VALE

Gary Benson

How will your team do?
Top half, although if we have a decent start, unlike the previous couple of seasons, the play-offs are a possibility.

Most important figure?
The supporters. Last year saw attendances tumble even though we reached our highest League position for over 60 years. We need to see gates increase and fans get behind the players. Other than this it has to be the manager John Rudge who produces miracles on a shoe-string year after year.

New piece of merchandise?
An inflatable supporter to sit in the empty seat next to you or a Stoke City Stress Doll - the ones you can punch and dismember to relieve tension

Which player most divides the support?
Tony Naylor, a forward who’s scored some great goals but also missed sitters. He‑also got into a bit of a slanging match with supporters last year because he didn’t like the criticism. Thankfully he’s signed a new four year contract and in the process got himself a new R reg Mercedes (a footballer’s life’s a hard one...)

PORTSMOUTH


Sarah Gilmore

How will your team do?
A play-off place would be realistic given how close we came last season.

Most important figure at the club?
It’s got to be Venables, whatever your opinion of him. (Some Pompey staff are said to be rather... surprised by TV’s working methods.)

New piece of merchandise?
A boardgame called ‘Conflict of Interest’ – brilliant fun for all the family.

Which player most divides the support?
Centre forward Matthias Svensson. No-one seems to know yet how good he is: he either has a storming game or is prone to violent outbursts.

Change to the matchday environment?
Nothing very new here: the bogs are a disgrace and I had to really chomp around to find the ‘meat’ in my ‘pie’.

QPR

Dave Thomas


How will your team do?
On the basis that we finished last season with something resembling shape and balance, we should finish better than ninth position again.

Most important figure?
Undoubtedly, manager Stewart Houston. The jury is still out on his abilities or otherwise. He hasn’t done too much wrong so far, but what he’s done right, he’s done slowly. And a manager who takes six months to cotton on to something that’s obvious to experts like ourselves (ho ho), is always going to be under pressure.

New piece of merchandise?
Thick woolly earmuffs, designed not only to keep the ears warm, but to block out the banalities of the half-time tannoy announcements, which include starting off with the Premiership scores (even though...) and all the minutiae surrounding those scores.

Which player most divides the support?
Probably Rufus Brevett, who will cover every blade of grass in his effort... to be the first to a punch-up. This translates to wholehearted commitment for half the Rangers support and brainless unprofessionalism for the more Corinthian other half.

Change to matchday environment?
The searching of females, old blokes and similar ‘troublemakers’ going into the ground by a supposed security firm, who can’t

READING

Simon Chandler

How will your team do?
New manager, an ageing team that needs rebuilding, no forwards (yet) – Bryan Robson is hardly quaking in his boots. First Division survival and status intact for the move to the new stadium in 1998 is all that matters this season. We should manage that, but probably not much more.

Most important figure?
The non-famous Terry Bullivant (new manager) who replaces the infamous Jimmy Quinn. Seems very bright, but if he isn’t an inspiration to players already here and still to be signed early on, then we’re in trouble.

Which player most divides the support?
Stuart Lovell: fresh-faced, cheeky local boy and darling of the South Bank. Unforgiven by others for that play-off penalty miss and subsequent loss of form and fitness.

Change to matchday environment?
“Heh heh, it’s that old tannoy announcer, as always, with the old Golden Gamble draw at half-time, as always, and the old vital half-times, it’s Man Utd and Spurs 0-0 there, one up to Arsenal at Coventry or the other way round, Newcastle two, getting on your nerves, as always...”

SHEFFIELD UTD

Matthew Bell

How will your team do?
Last year we were second favourites, this year we might do better than expected – sixth place.

Most important figure?
The new manager whoever he may be. Hopefully it will be current caretaker Nigel Spackman as he seems to have the confidence of the players and board (and fans too, I think).

Which player most divides the support?
David White. Some say he’s crap, others that he’d be good if played in the right position (ie as a right winger) which Howard Kendall usually didn’t do.

Change to matchday environment?
Better food – bhajis, samosas, pizzas etc rather than just pies and burgers.

STOKE CITY

Martin Smith


How will your team do?
We should finish in a safe mid-table position with the prospect of even pushing for a play-off place. However, after what Barnsley did last season there’s hope for us all, unrealistic though it may be.

Most important figure?
Without doubt, new manager Chic Bates, formerly Lou Macari’s assistant. Chic now has the chance to do the job himself. Everybody knows that he was not the club’s first choice (nor second, third, fourth or fifth if rumours are to be believed) and if things start to go against him, then the board may act quickly to deflect criticism from themselves.

New piece of merchandise?
Toilet paper with the Port Vale crest on it would be popular, but then I can’t see our rivals giving us permission to use their trademark. Other than that, a pocket computer which takes messages from our board and translates what they say into what they actually mean...

Which player most divides the support?
At present it’s new (free) signing Paul Stewart. Many believe he’s a has-been journeyman seeing out his career with Stoke and has no heart for the club.

Change to matchday environment?
Impossible to say as we’re moving to a new stadium and must therefore prepare for a new matchday routine.

STOCKPORT COUNTY

Dave Espley

How will your team do? Top ten (a touch optimistic, though, if we lose players to Southampton).

Most important figure?
The players proved last season that they are good enough to compete with their betters – it’s now for the new manager Gary Megson to prove that’s he’s also up to it.

New piece of merchandise?
“67 Club” T-shirts, only for sale to those fans who went to every game, home and away, last season; the most in the club’s history. I’d buy two – one for me and one for Alex Ferguson, to help him realise what “too many games” really means.

Which player most divides the support?
If ex-manager Dave Jones doesn’t try to prize him away, striker Alun Armstrong. Some fans are convinced that he’s one of the most naturally talented players ever seen at Edgeley Park (playing for County, that is – we had Le Tissier here last season); others maintain that he’s a preening, overrated prat.

Change to matchday environment?
I’d like a complete cull of mascots. Ours is a bear – Christ knows why as we’ve no connection, via nickname or otherwise, with bears. He sports a particularly moth-eaten costume, with a tail that looks like a set of startlingly large haemorrhoids. His half-time appearances chill the depths of my soul.

SUNDERLAND

Tom Lynn

How will your team do?
In the Premiership, a lack of investment, the non-selection of key players and an over-cautious attitude cost us dearly. However, only Wimbledon (home) and Man Utd and Chelsea (away) embarrassed us in 1996-97. With signings like Lee Clark we should be stronger and among the promotion pacesetters.

Most important figure?
Peter Reid. After a wildly successful first full year culminating in winning the First Division title, last season he cocked up in the eyes of many, and accused of average buying and negative tactics.

New piece of merchandise?
Premier League virtual reality headsets to take our minds off trips to Crewe and Bury.

Which player most divides the support?
England under 21 international Martin Smith. Myself and many others see a skilful winger of huge potential who just needs a long first team run and plenty of cajoling to become a real star. Others see an unmotivated luxury.

Change to matchday environment?
We’ll have to see what we’re presented with in a completely new stadium. In general terms, I would like to see an end to the corny Americanization of the game with cheerleaders, childish mascots and Smashey and Nicey type PAs booted out.

SWINDON

Craig Gurney

How will your team do?
At the time of writing our big signing is Craig Taylor from Dorchester. Mmm, we’re skint aren’t we? Despite this I reckon we’ll avoid the drop on our home form if we don’t pick up too many injuries or suspensions. Let’s be optimistic and say 18th.

Most important figure?
McMahon will be in the spotlight – with little money to spend and a nasty habit of attempting and failing to sign players he used to play with (Beagrie, Rush, Venison), the squad is weak. He could be heading for a vote of confidence in the New Year.

New piece of merchandise?
A Swindon Town snowstorm shaker – to remind us that it’s going to be a long hard season.

Change to matchday environment?
I think it’s time to say goodbye to the Robinettes, thank you very much. Pubescent dancing girls who rustle their pom poms to top pop hits at half-time – individually they’re lovely people, collectively they’re a cringeful embarrassment.

TRANMERE

Andy Duckers

How will your team do?
God knows: there has been an alarming amount of close season activity at the ‘Nou Camp of the Wirral’, rather than the usual one-out, one-in. But if the goals keep going in like they did when Lee Jones was with us on loan, and the defence learns to concentrate for 90 minutes, the halcyon days of play-off failure could return to Birkenhead. Realistically, somewhere in the top ten.

Most important figure?
Lee Jones, signed from Liverpool, if he continues where he left off whilst on loan last season. At £100,000 he could prove to be our best buy since Aldo. Ominously, though, my sister fancies him and normally she only goes for the likes of Duncan Ferguson and Savo Milosevic. Not a good omen, is it?

New piece of merchandise?
“I Spy” books offering reasons why Andy Thorn won’t be playing. By the end of the season, our Andy, booked then injured on his debut, had a higher injury tally than the Battle of the Somme. And if FA disciplinary points were Air Miles, he could man the next NASA Mars discovery probe. With last season as a form guide, any supporter who goes to half our games would get through about three books each in the next nine months.

Which player most divides the support?
The left wing enigma that is Graham Branch. He’s not a bad player, but for the first few years he was bloody hopeless – he had the gravitational awareness of a newly born deer and ran like someone who had his laces tied together. For this some people will never forgive him, regardless of what he achieves in the future.

Change to matchday environment?
I think we’re the only club in the country who give the biggest and best end of the ground to away supporters. I dread to think what will happen should we ever get promoted. For the visits of Liverpool or Manchester United, we will probably be the first team to invoke a “No Home Supporters” clause.

WOLVES

Charles Ross

How will your team do?
Play-offs at least, with a reasonable chance of automatic promotion. If not, expect the self-styled “Golden Tit”, Sir Jack Hayward, to send McGhee packing.

Most important figure?
Same answer as per the last ten years – Steve Bull. Now 32 and with over 300 goals to his credit, he responded to seeing his dream of the Premiership being crushed by Crystal Palace by signing a new contract which will see him end his playing days at Molineux. For the sake of Sir Jack and Bully, this must be the year; I can wait another decade if needs be, but time is not on their side.

New piece of merchandise?
A proper old gold shirt would be a good idea. A bad idea would be to produce a mug emblazoned with the words “What’s the time? Premier time!” – which the club shop did last spring. Talking of mugs...

Which player most divides the support?
Steve Corica, who followed McGhee down the M69 from Leicester. Better than Kinkladze, or so we were told. He’s since scored twice for us. Arguments on hold since a cruciate injury means we won’t see him before Xmas. Possibly the only known Aussie sportsman visibly lacking any self-confidence.

Change to matchday environment?
Bring back ‘The Liquidator’ as our theme tune. It was axed last season because exception was taken to most of the crowd screaming dementedly “f*** off West Brom – THE WOLVES!” to the classic ska track. Instead, we all fall asleep to Jeff Beck’s ‘Hi-Ho Silver Lining’ – as do the team, witness eight home League defeats. Conversely, anyone doing a Mexican wave during a game should be shot.

WEST BROM


Neil Reynolds

How will your team do?
Beat Stoke for the first time this decade; top six finish (with 15 other teams!).

Most important figure?
The Blair/Harford partnership. Since practically all of Albion’s cup successes and promotions have been achieved under a Labour government, and all relegations under the Tories, there is a genuine feeling of “New Labour – New Optimism”, with new manager Ray Harford seemingly assembling a high calibre playing staff.

New piece of merchandise?
A time machine; we’re a little sick of hearing “you’re not famous any more”. It would be nice to whizz back or fast forward so that tickets for away games at Anfield and Old Trafford are on sale again.

Which player most divides the support?
Paul Crichton, the goalkeeper (allegedly) that Buckley signed from former/present club Grimsby. Fans can’t decide whether he’s the worst player ever to have played professional football or merely the worst post-war Albion keeper.

Change to matchday environment?
Build a couple of decent pubs within walking distance of the ground – a sentiment also regularly expressed by many thousands of away fans.

From WSC 127 September 1997. What was happening this month

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