Harry Pearson’s review of Farewell But Not Goodbye (WSC 224) is to be applauded for refraining from trotting out the usual platitudes when the words “Sir Bobby Robson”, “beloved” and “Newcastle United” appear anywhere near each other. While there is no doubt Robson is, and always has been, a Newcastle fan, unlike others who jump on and off the black ’n’ white bandwagon, the fact is that he turned down the chance to manage Newcastle at least five times. Indeed, he even refused to come to Newcastle when his Barcelona job title was the equivalent of dogsbody. What might have been achieved had he jumped at his “dream job” when first offered is a matter of great debate on Tyneside. There is absolutely no argument that he pulled Newcastle back from the brink and for a while established us as a major European force. However, it should not be forgotten that Sir Bobby was given the chance to work at Newcastle despite his reluctance to do so several times earlier.
Alistair WS Murray, Newcastle Upon Tyne
Taylor Parkes’ review of Goal! (WSC 224) by implication raises that old question of why a good, intelligent and realistic film about football seems impossible to make. However, putting the blame for the failures of Goal! on the British film industry and saying we won’t hear much more about it is misguided. The film is made primarily with American money, but in addition a major backer is Adidas. It is also only the first of a trilogy – with the storylines already written. In episode two the hero moves onto Real Madrid and wins the Champions League. The third has him in the World Cup (probably winning it for Mexico). Real Madrid and Newcastle United both have Adidas kit deals; the World Cup will be played in Germany – also the site of Adidas’s head office: it all becomes clear, doesn’t it? The three films will essentially be extended ads for the kit manufacturer and part of the commercial build-up to the World Cup and the exploitation of it after the event. That Beckham popped up in Goal! with a cameo is probably due to his contract commitments with Adidas. Newcastle were probably chosen as they are arguably Adidas’s highest profile team in the Premiership – or perhaps it was to add a touch of Hollywood fantasy with their CL qualification! The ad on WSC’s back cover helped explain it all too. The product (Goal!) being used as a vehicle for three brands – Northern Rock, Adidas and NUFC.
Patrick Brannigan, Hertford
Adam Stoddart (Letters, WSC 224) contends that a shot that hits the post is no better than one that hits the corner flag because they are both off target. Presumably he applauds those that flop gently into the goalkeeper’s midriff in the middle of the goal for being on target?
Jeff Byrne, via email
In response to James Christie’s letter (WSC 223) regarding last year’s highly publicised, highly embarrassing incident between Livi and Dundee, I would like to say that while I agree Livingston’s conduct was indeed very suspect in relation to their employment of Hassan Kachloul, it wasn’t so long ago that, under the directorship of the deeply sinister lawyer Giovanni Di Stefano, Dundee broke the rules and were themselves lucky to avoid being relegated as a result. Players such as Craig Burley and Fabrizio Ravanelli were brought in, with club owners knowing full well they could not afford them. Burley, at least, was never paid a penny after the club was forced into administration. As a Dundee United fan, of course I revelled in Dundee’s misery for about five minutes on the last day of last season, but I would far rather have seen Livi go down, as the Dundee derby is the highlight of the season for fans of both clubs. However, I don’t think Livingston going down instead would have been fair, despite their conduct. Let’s hope Dundee change places with Livi next year without a repeat of last season’s farce.
Douglas MacLeod, via email
Many thanks to Gwilym Boore (WSC 224) for letting the cat out of the bag regarding Joe Jordan. That he must “rest the Welsh case” on “evidence” as flimsy as his completely subjective interpretation of a man’s dignified restraint in face of foul mouthed vitriol, pretty much says it all about the validity of such a case. I’ve already rested the Scottish case, Gwilym, on something a bit more substantial, namely facts and observations, which you and your compatriots have had ample opportunity to address and refute, but have singularly failed to do so. Sums the whole thing up rather nicely, methinks.
Andrew Cowe, via email
*Right, that is definitely the end of the Joe Jordan correspondence
Further to your call for certain phrases to be edited out of football broadcasts (WSC 223) I hope soon to see technology developed that will allow the viewer to pixelate images that distress them. I would begin with Peter Reid’s face. It’s quite a bother even when only visible at the edge of the screen, nodding vaguely while Alan Hansen recites a list of adjectives, but in close-up it’s terrifying, like a by-product of weird occult practices in a remote Carpathian village. I’ve tried pressing the various coloured buttons on my remote but to no effect. Something must be done – I don’t expect to be scared witless in exchange for my licence fee.
Mark Tait, via email
In response to Ashley Manning’s letter (WSC 224) regarding my Birmingham City pre-season preview I feel I should clarify a couple of things. A 30-year-old sense of injustice was not behind my choice of Fulham as most disliked. (If I wasn’t only 28 and could remember the 1975 FA Cup semi-final loss it might rankle a bit more.) No, my reasoning was largely dictated by visits to south-west London on three dismal occasions over the last couple of years where I have been disappointed to find that “little, poorly supported Second Division Fulham” have become little, poorly supported Premiership Fulham, albeit with a rich sugar daddy. When a top-flight club can only half-fill a Championship ground (I haven’t been to Craven Cottage since it escaped its brush with the Fayed Redevelopment Co) and a large portion of those fans comprised groups of school children who are unlikely to have paid the full fee, it makes you question how much they deserve their elevated status. There is no real malice in my choice, and, in fairness to the Cottagers, it is in all likelihood a greater reflection of my dislike for Mohamed Fayed and on the increasingly characterless nature of the Premiership. On a more belligerent note, however, I was curious to see the caption on the picture associated with the letter referring to Birmingham’s “big club label” dropping off. As neither I nor Ashley mentioned big clubs or labels, could it be another perceived slight to Birmingham City for me to get uppity about?
Ken Jones, Cambridge
Regarding Roman Abramovich’s voice (Letters, WSC 223), I have it on good authority that, regretfully, he has a speech defect resembling that of Sylvester the spluttering cat from the Warner Brothers cartoons. He didn’t bother to have anything done about it when living in Russia as he knew that no one would dare risk laughing at him. He’s been having voice coaching since moving to the UK, however, as he is known to be keen on appearing on his favourite TV show, Soccer AM, possibly while wearing an “ironic” Ramones T-shirt, just like Tim Lovejoy. We can expect to see him on screen before the end of the season, as vocal lessons are coming along well except for a tendency to panic when attempting words like “suspicious”. Not that it’s a word he needs to say often, of course.
Tony Kincaid, via email
The good and welcome points that Barney Ronay makes about his visit to Stamford Bridge (WSC 224) are unfortunately submerged by the factual errors, the snide and unsupported comments about Chelsea fans and the unremittingly negative agenda. The piece starts “Chelsea fans are an unusual breed”. Later on, Barney says “there is, definitely, something about Chelsea fans”. But he says nothing to support these comments, leaving the reader to read between the lines – somehow, these aren’t proper football fans; they’re different, but not in a good way. The negative implications are all over the piece. Fans “standing as one to watch the adverts” – er, not from where I was sitting: my impression is that few actually watch any of them and there aren’t that many adverts anyway. “These are very status-conscious Londoners,” he writes because, er, we sang “We are top of the league” – the only fans in history to have sung that song, apparently. Later on he makes a more interesting point: “One aspect of the mass protests at the Glazer takeover of Manchester United was the light it threw on Roman Abramovich’s empire-building further south. I don’t remember anyone complaining around here.” There are differences: Glazer had to borrow hugely to acquire United, immediately saddling the club with huge debts, which would worry fans of any club; Abramovich got Chelsea with his own money and sorted the club’s much publicised debts out. I would also suggest that there’s bound to be a difference in the fans’ reactions when you’re talking about a club that’s won numerous trophies over a number of years and another that hasn’t won a League title for 50. Do the fans of most clubs, in any case, know or care where the money that backs their club originates? The away fans were not “shunted” into the Shed End seating because Jose Mourinho wanted them away from the dugouts, but as part of a rethink brought about by consultation with supporters’ groups. This was mostly to do with stopping the Matthew Harding Lower section being given to away fans for cup games; the solution involved giving away fans the same home for both league and cup games. The club has long been criticised by away fans for giving them the worst view in the ground – should it really be criticised for allowing visitors a better view for their money? Apparently, if you live anywhere near Stamford Bridge, you’re either extremely wealthy or spend your life “pressed up against the über-consumption... of your extremely wealthy neighbours”. Take a walk within a three-mile radius of Highbury – there’s some nice places there, too, cheek by jowl with the less fortunate. As our neighbours are fond of telling us, Stamford Bridge is in Fulham in any case – have you seen the price of houses near Craven Cottage? Yet somehow this is a stick with which to beat Chelsea alone. I have grown weary of hearing people mixing up good arguments with bad because they know that most of the mud they sling at Chelsea will stick, whatever its veracity. There are important things about Chelsea to debate, but please try to debate them properly.
Peter Collins, London SW20
I was surprised to hear 6.06 presenter Alan Green say on air recently that he wanted “more positive opinions” to balance calls from disgruntled fans. This reminded me of the time when BBC newsreader Martyn Lewis bemoaned the lack of heart-warming stories on the news: he longed to tell the viewers about cats being rescued from trees rather than the latest job losses or gloomy economic forecasts. Lewis was widely ridiculed for his outburst but Green won’t be, as he is simply reflecting the view of the media insider. So many football discussions on radio and TV are mind-bendingly bland because the presenters make no attempt to prise real opinions from the managers and ex-players they speak to (the contributions of attention-seeking idiots such as Rodney Marsh don’t count). If 6.06 is to be a repository of “heart-warming” stories in order to make life easier for the presenter when he is socialising in the sponsors’ lounge, then it is time to take the show off the air.
David Senior, via email
From WSC 225 November 2005. What was happening this month