THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
While it was an otherwise fairly accurate piece culminating in stating what many of us believe (WSC 232), which is that Neil Warnock is an “offensive gobshite”, Pete Green lets himself down by recycling that old rubbish about Warnock spending his career “picking up ailing clubs off the floor and setting them back on their feet”. Not quite true. In the late Nineties, Stan Ternent guided Bury Football Club from the then Division Three to Division One with successive promotions, and kept us up in Division One while luminaries such as Manchester City were relegated from it (oh how we laughed when we beat them at Maine Road in the process), before buggering off to Burnley and leaving us to the mercy of the “Red Adair” of lower-league football. Warnock’s tenure at Gigg Lane started off in patronising fashion, referring to us as “a smashing little club”. He flooded the team with under-performers he had dragged with him from his previous clubs, turned up at Gigg Lane wearing a Sheffield United club tie while we were paying his wages, got us relegated to Division Two, then skulked off to Bramall Lane, taking some of our better players with him and paying peanuts for them into the bargain. Bury were then relegated to the bottom division, went into administration and nearly out of business. So please spare us the revisionist history about Warnock. If the truth be known, Stan was the Man who turned the Shakers around – Warnock destroyed his work. And yes, I will be looking for Sheffield United to be humiliated in every match they play next season
Howard Cover, Liverpool

Dear WSC
I can confirm that there are cash machines in Shipley, albeit not in the railway station (Letters, WSC 232). There are at least five within the body of the town, within walking distance of said station. Your correspondent should perhaps have paid by cheque or debit card for his ticket and saved his notes and shrapnel for the fare on the train rather than the train fare. I should add that the last time I travelled from Shipley to Carlisle there was no buffet car or trolley.
Paul Drew, Frizinghall, nr Shipley

Dear WSC
As we approach the WSC pre-season club previews, I am reminded of a correspondent who suggested that Milton Keynes Dons should be forgiven, and reinstated. I beg to differ, particularly since we are seeing an attempt at rewriting history. There were several grossly misleading references to the club’s relegation on the radio, one of which announced that it was their first demotion since they “revived the corpse of Wimbledon”. Well, really, Wimbledon were a corpse only because they were murdered by those who took Division One football (as it then was) to Milton Keynes. Apparently Milton Keynes City are now defunct. If the investment had gone into this club we should have cheered – and other non-League clubs are showing now how relatively easy it is to get into, at least, the Conference. So, with only the future of football in mind, I have a wish list: AFC Wimbledon to get into the Conference South next year and MKD to be demoted again. This would bring the day when the clubs meet at the same level closer. And that will be good for football.
John Bennett, via email


Dear WSC

With regard to Tim Weaver’s letter in WSC 232, he states that Dave Beasant was one of the early exponents of “launching the ball into the mixer from midway inside his own half”. This may be true, but the man widely regarded as having invented this phenomenon was none other than that legendary Hull City and Wales keeper, Tony Norman. Norman has gone down in City folklore, making 372 consecutive appearances between the sticks, and, some time around 1982-83, it was noticed that he would roll the ball out of his penalty area and launch it forward. No one could ever recall a goalkeeper doing it before, hence the reason why Norman was credited with its invention.
Tom Darvell, via email

Dear WSC

While having every sympathy with Ian Hall (Letters, WSC 232) and the misery Captain Marvel has inflicted on Baggies fans, his suffering is as nothing compared to those of us stuck with Sunderland. To combine Ian’s point with Graham Kaye’s alternative occupations for Premiership managers, I would just like to say that over the past 20 years we’ve had McMenemy, Reid, Butcher and McCarthy all masquerading as managers and then been subjected to their “analysis” on a nauseatingly regular basis on TV and radio. Yes, Lawrenson and Hansen are abysmal and Lineker useless, but at least they didn’t ruin my team first and then laugh all the way to the bank afterwards with their pay-offs. Incidentally, when are you going to do the Strange Case of Michael Bridges? The Carlisle hero could’ve been a contender this summer in Germany...
Steve Gibbons, via email


Dear WSC

One lunchtime recently I walked past a TV shop, with a big screen in the window showing an interview with Sven-Göran Eriksson from the 2002 World Cup. A man standing outside the shop completely on his own announced in a loud voice: “Sven – you are deluding yourself!” Have any other readers seen possible lunatics abusing international football managers who can’t hear them because they are inside a television and being interviewed four years ago, while out on their lunchbreak?
James Clarke, via email

Dear WSC

During the BBC’s FA Cup final broadcast, Alan Shearer informed those of us who could never know what it might be like to take penalties in a shootout in front of a huge crowd, with lots at stake, that there is no point in practising because you can’t replicate the conditions. There followed nods of agreement from Alan Hansen and Ian Wright, fellow ex-pro pundits who might be expected to share this view, and Gary Lineker, nominally the host and anchor and, as such, the person who should interrogate the logic, or otherwise, of this rather glib statement. Unfortunately, as another ex-pro, he also went along with the perceived wisdom. Conversely Sir Clive Woodward recently advised Aidy Boothroyd to get his Watford players to practise penalties. Woodward explained that it was Johnny Wilkinson’s total mastering of the technique of dropping the ball under normal conditions that meant that when the big moment came, in a World Cup final, he could trust his technique to take over and outweigh the effects of the pressure. The BBC pundits are all, no doubt, well travelled individuals, so it is interesting to note that airline pilots practise on simulators where they routinely land aircraft in fog, without a full complement of engines, wheels, etc, etc. I wonder if Shearer would prefer a pilot who hasn’t carried out these mandatory practice sessions, “because you can’t replicate the conditions”.
Tim Manns, Compton Dundon, Somerset

Dear WSC

Does anyone remember that old quiz question about naming five league clubs with an “x” in their name? Exeter, Halifax, Oxford... If I was a Wrexham fan, I’d be bricking it.

Martin Callaghan, Wakefield

Dear WSC
An error in your diary (WSC 232) turns a fascinating story into a dull one. You say that Altrincham have been deducted 18 points for “using a player who hadn’t got international clearance after moving from an Australian club”. You would have been correct had you written, instead of “an Australian club”, “Accrington Stanley”. Altrincham signed an English player from an English club, and only after he moved on to Australia did it come to light that he had previously played in Iceland, and international clearance had never been sought. Accrington were not deducted points because he did not play a Conference game for them. Nevertheless, they were charged by the FA for their part in the process. Altrincham were told they had no case to answer. Then Altrincham (not Accrington) were charged by the Conference. They deducted the full 18 points applicable. Speaking on Five Live, the chairman of the Conference, John Moules, said that the Conference was obliged to do so by the rules of the FA. In an entirely related incident, an FA spokesman in the Manchester Evening News said that Altrincham had not breached any FA or FIFA regulations. The FA’s statement after the appeal only mentioned Conference regulations. If even the FA and the Conference don’t agree on whose rules they are, is it any wonder that, year after year, relegation is such an exquisite farce?
Daniel Hogg, Oxford


Dear WSC

In Huw Richards’ article on Swansea City players parading around the Millennium Stadium with a flag emblazoned with “F*** off Cardiff” (WSC 232), the introduction expresses his frustration at a Swansea City “success” being overshadowed by the Swansea fixation with all things Cardiff. This sounded quite refreshing. A Swansea fan who wasn’t always checking to see if Cardiff are watching what they were doing. However, the rest of the article was a disappointment as Huw reverted to type and showed exactly the same small-town parochialism displayed by the Swansea players. As usual, any Swansea City misfortune, including those self inflicted, is laid at the door of Cardiff City. This is not just football thing. Swansea as a whole suffers from an acute case of second-city syndrome. They are the typical small child whose best way of getting attention is to have a tantrum. When Swansea got to the Football League Trophy final the fact there were no mainline trains on that Sunday between the two cities, due to maintenance works, and the fact Cardiff Council put up the park-and-ride charges a week earlier were presented as Cardiff conspiracies against Swansea. The fact both had been planned and announced months earlier was ignored. My non-footballing family and friends were far more concerned with the insult to Cardiff as a whole, given the game was in Cardiff, rather than to City. The use of a Welsh flag for those sort of obscenities is not appropriate. There are also a few points in Huw’s article which need correcting. Although Trundle and Tate were questioned by police it was more of a team effort. The photo in WSC shows captain Roberto Martinez fully involved. Other photos show more players and manager Kenny Jackett not too far from the flag, either. Jackett’s response was to say “the players didn’t know what was on the flag” and take no further action. Huw uses the term “Cardiff” police which conjures up images of coppers in Bluebirds tops. The fact is both Cardiff and Swansea are both covered by South Wales Police. He also referred to half-time entertainment involving burning a Swansea shirt. Please tell us which game this was, Huw, as I seem to have missed it. There is one thing Huw may be right about. Cardiff is probably not the centre of the universe. The trouble is most Swansea fans think it is.
Rob Jenkins, Cardiff


Dear WSC
Having had first-hand experience of the England support at France 98, Euro 2000 and Euro 2004, Mark Perryman’s view in WSC 231 struck me as dangerously sanguine. Likewise, I found myself totally staggered by the perception that Euro 2004 was considered a “huge success” and “set a standard” (Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Thomas). I attended England’s opening group game against France in Lisbon and, as an (erstwhile) England fan, was appalled and embarrassed by the fans’ aggression, bigoted and racist humour, their portfolio of “songs” and collective show of self-perceived superiority. If Euro 2004 demonstrated the acceptable face of England fandom, I’d hate to see the ugly side. This tone was epitomised before kick-off when my partner was verbally abused by an ex-England player of the 1990s, now working in the media, who happened to be sitting in front of us (she had asked him if he would mind putting out his cigarette in what was supposed to be a non-smoking stadium). The ex-player and his thuggish mates were boorish and intimidating throughout the game; behaviour that reached its nadir when Zidane scored the winner and his charming group shouted at a celebrating French couple to “fuck off” and “sit the fuck down” (all this in an area of the stadium designated as “neutral”). Incidentally, the photograph accompanying Mark Perryman’s piece comically fails to illustrate his perception of a positive change in the England fanbase. Just check out the leering, the sunburn, the topless men showing off their tattoos and shapeless bodies, the baseball caps and flags with the names of all the towns in England you never wanted to visit. Good luck to Germany’s police and citizens in June, they really are going to need it.
Kevin Pocklington, via email

Dear WSC

Ashley Shaw may be right in stating that Accrington Stanley have to compete for fans with several League clubs nearby and so are not ideally placed (WSC 232). However, isolation hasn’t helped the mighty Boston United (30 miles from the nearest League club and the second lowest average attendance in the League) and we don’t get ex-Manchester United and Liverpool trainees queuing up to live in rural Lincolnshire. So there are advantages in being situated near loads of higher-status clubs – you don’t spend years watching Lincoln’s cast-offs.
John Chapman, via email


Dear WSC

While at the Partick Thistle v Stranraer Scottish Division Two play-off, the game was failing to keep the mind of my 12‑year‑old son, Ben, fully occupied.However, his idle thoughts settled on a potentially brilliant idea – “Why,” he asked, “don’t all referees have a panel on the back of their shirt with ‘How am I reffing?’ on it, with a phone number to call?”
Mark Lewsey, Glasgow

Dear WSC
The rather ferocious Accrington bossJohn Coleman was working for Sky in their Conference play-off coverage and came up with a choice phrase I’d not heard before. Expecting to see Grays Athletic players getting more stuck in during their semi-final match with Halifax, he said he’d tell them to be “carried out on your shields”. I’m not sure which era he got this image from – the Spartans possibly, or the Vikings? – but it set me wondering about how the Accrington players might be fired up during teamtalks. Blood oaths and animal sacrifices may be acceptable in non-League circles, but are surely well beyond what is permitted in Football League dressing rooms given the fuss caused by the Leeds players’ graffiti following their play-off tie at Preston.
Chris Jordan, via email

From WSC 233 July 2006. What was happening this month

More...