THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
The story about Croke Park in WSC 220 failed to point out that one of the main reasons why the Ulster GAA delegates voted against allowing the IFA to use the stadium, is the presence of a British army base yards from the endline at Crossmaglen Rangers (a picture of this can be viewed here). The Ulster GAA has always said that while this base remains, they would continue to vote against “soccer” games at Croke Park. Perhaps, in the interest of balance, a statue of Bobby Sands could be erected along the new Wembley Way. I’m sure that this would go down well with the moronic England fans who continue to sing “No surrender” at every single game. I just pray that England and Ireland are kept apart in the Euro 2008 qualifiers, as I can’t imagine that their presence at Croke Park would be very well received.
John Rooney, via email

Dear WSC
I had decided to treat the vitriol towards Joe Jordan from “Skoda Fan” (Letters, WSC 219) with the contempt it deserved, confident that someone else would pen a robust rebuttal. However, having read a follow-up salvo from Mark Ainsbury in WSC 220, I really must insist on a response. For a start, I would have thought it perfectly obvious that the reference to Jordan’s honesty related to his wholehearted commitment to the game and the teams he represented, rather than a reluctance to bend the laws of the game. Technically, therefore, I suppose he was a cheat in one context, however if our friends seriously believe that this made him different to any other player, including incidentally the 11 men representing Wales that night, then they probably also still leaving a glass of milk and biscuits out on Christmas Eve. Perhaps Jordan’s accusers might also like to reflect that the referee erred because the Wales defender, Joey Jones, also raised his hand towards the ball. So either this was an inadvertent error, in which case the same benefit of the doubt must be accorded to Jordan, or Jones was also trying to gain an advantage by handling the ball. I would respectfully suggest to your Corinthian correspondents that they assume the former, because otherwise to abuse one man for cheating and say nothing about another who by definition tried to, would appear to be an extremely weak premise on which to assume the moral high ground. That is if indeed the penalty in question was for handball – it being a little-known fact that the referee that night has hinted that the offence he identified was in fact a push in Jordan’s back, causing him to raise his hand involuntarily. Either way, the incident is clouded in sufficient doubt as to render the nasty abuse dished out by these bitter individuals totally unjustified. If it’s any consolation lads, I don’t think Wales would have pulled up any trees in Argentina anyway, whereas at least we… ah, hang on, no, I’ll quit now while I’m ahead.
Andrew Cowe, via email

Dear WSC
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that Emlyn Hughes and Kevin Keegan should be reviled for their enthusiastic toadying towards Mrs Thatcher in 1980 (WSC 220). However, there is probably a worse image of football and politics intermingled: the photograph of an England team giving the Nazi salute in 1938. The gesture provoked outrage in the British press and was seen as all the more galling since Hitler was not even present at the time. The Scottish Cup final between Dundee United and Celtic in 1988 included a cameo appearance by Mrs Thatcher. She was responsible for many of the problems that Scotland (and England and Wales) and its people were suffering at the time and the general feeling was that she should never have been asked to attend this match. To help the fans display their utter disgust at her presence, the Greater Glasgow Health Joint Trade Union Committee published a leaflet, printed by Labour Communications Limited. The leaflet was red on both sides and was distributed to the fans outside the stadium along with instructions to hold it up when the PM appeared. The fans took part with little persuasion and when she appeared, a sea of red cards were shown around the entire stadium in a gesture of sending her off. She, of course, ignored it...
Ian Thomson, via email

Dear WSC
I read with interest Al Needham’s article on Forest’s relegation to what we lower-league fans still call the Third Division (WSC 220). I usually find his articles interesting, amusing and articulate and this one was no different, especially when he used the John Wayne Bobbit analogy on us Notts fans “taking the piss”. Where Al falls into the trap, however, is his reference to the practically trademarked “Twice winners of the European Cup, Nottingham Forest” tag that has been conveniently hauled out by every Tricky Tree under the sun this season (it’s the 25th anniversary of the second one this year, although you’d never believe it of course). If the quality of football on show next season is the same as I witnessed at the City Ground (£25 a bloody ticket!) on the final Sunday of the season, when Eugen Bopp’s 85th-minute volley put visitors Gillingham down, then fans of Little Yeovil and Scrappy Scunthorpe may soon be asking themselves why they should be “looking to make a name for themselves” as Al puts it. Story goes that as Dele Adebola scored Coventry’s second in their late-season win over Forest, a mouthy Red, ensconced in the Cov end, shouted: “At least we’ve won the European Cup twice, you haven’t.” Half a dozen rows in front of him a middle-aged Sky Blue slowly turned his head and muttered back: “It’s football mate, not Top fucking Trumps.”
Martin Naylor, Nottingham

Dear WSC
A few weeks ago, while sipping a couple of pints with friends, one of my acquaintances made a joke stating that he planned to start up a “Peter Crouch for England” campaign. While I have the greatest respect for the Southampton player, I still felt that an international call-up would be unlikely to ever materialise. Therefore I found my friend’s comments relatively humorous and we continued to discuss the campaign with mirth and joviality. I thought little of it until I took a look at Teletext today and read the words “England call-up for Crouch”. When we have an England manager making the same selection choices that a man whose tactical ignorance is often highlighted by his opponents in division six of the Mid-Sussex Sunday League would also make, then I do really think we have a problem with football in this country.
Mark Benn, via email

Dear WSC
Amir Arezoo’s mention of Goce Sedloski (Letters, WSC 220) brought to mind the mysterious second coming of Big Ron Atkinson to Sheffield Wednesday in the 1997-98 season. Ron was brought back to sort out the player-power problems that David Pleat had struggled with and the club would be dogged with until… well now, really. Atkinson quickly began his wheeler-dealing and the Wednesday stiffs witnessed more foreign trialists than when the Inquisition went global. When Sedloski arrived at Hillsborough late in the 1997-98 season, I went to watch him play for the reserves and was suitably impressed by the big footballing centre-half only to find that the player I enthused over next day at work was a certain Emerson Thome. Sedloski duly arrived from Hajduk Split and made three full appearances at the heart of Wednesday’s defence. His play was competent but he disappeared as quickly as he had arrived and was never heard from again. Rumours suggested that Wednesday were a halfway house to getting him to a bigger club but nothing seemed to come of this, indeed nothing was heard of Sedloski again until he played for Macedonia against England in 2003. Atkinson soon presided over some strange signings, including Austrian striker Christian Mayrleb who arrived in January, made three appearances as sub and left at the end of the season, costing the club a significant amount for his brief headless chicken impersonations. Big Ron, who was supposed to be grooming Nigel Pearson as Wed­nesday’s next manager, was sacked in the close season despite steadying the ship. Consequently Pearson never got the gig. Atkinson was as shocked about his dismissal as were the Wednesday faithful and he blamed “weak men in pinstripes” (undoubtedly including the current chairman of the Premier League, Dave Richards) for his dismissal. Even though Owls fans might struggle to recognise Sedloski, they would, however, recognise that the player you captioned as “Wednesday Legend” last issue was in fact Benito Carbone before his Disney’s Tarzan look.
Graham Lightfoot, via email

Dear WSC
In WSC 220, your correspondent Phil Rogers argues that there is a clear distinction between the way Chelsea have generated the money they have spent on players and the way Man Utd and Arsenal have done it. Rather oddly, he then goes on to state that this distinction is important, but without explaining why or to whom. Surely when United went public, they invited all and sundry to give them money in return for share certificates. They then spent that money on players and won things. What Chelsea have done is invite one person to send them money in return for share certificates. They have then spent that money and won things. That’s probably an important distinction in company law, so perhaps Mr Rogers should have sent his letter to “When the Auditor Calls” (a zany look at the wacky world of accountancy). However, WSC is a magazine for football fans and if Man Utd fans were chanting “We love the shareholders” when they won all those trophies six years ago, then I must have missed it. And until there is one Champions League for plcs and another for the rest, then I won’t believe it’s important to UEFA or the FA either. The only other reason I can think of as to why it might be important is that if you are a Man Utd fan and can’t come to terms with now being only the third best team in England, it’s a rather ungracious way of trying to demean Chelsea’s and José Mourinho’s achievements.
Mick Blakeman, Wolverhampton

Dear WSC
Much as I’m loath to agree, Martin Gowers conclusion that terracing will never return is simply spot on. Despite the many reasoned points over whether terracing is dangerous, or the fact that disasters have also occurred in all-seat grounds, the authorities (the Football Licensing Authority, the police, the FA) clearly will not  relinquish the vice-like grip that they now have on the game. The FLA (primarily John De Quidt) are particularly over-zealous in this regard. As long as the mass market for the Premiership and the glitz that brings in the revenue continues, the clubs will keep things as they are. Fans get ejected for standing because there’s always someone to take their place. Meanwhile, it’s perfectly acceptable to stand up in a train travelling at speeds of 100mph. So, I wish the campaign good luck, but fear the worst.
Rob Trent, Southampton

Dear WSC
I assume that the release of hundreds of balloons before play-off matches is meant to add to the excitement of the occasion. Instead, in the manner of loose horses in the Grand National, they simply get in the way. The Sheffield Wednesday striker impeded by drifting balloons while attempting a shot during the play-off match with Brentford won’t have been the only player to curse the League’s marketing department. Some have sensed the danger and now set about bursting as many balloons as they can before kick-off, but their endeavours have little effect. The only way to end this modern blight is to go to the office of whoever’s responsible and release balloons on top of them whenever they’re trying to get some work done. Football’s not supposed to be “fun”, you bastards.
Derek Wall, via email

Dear WSC
It was interesting to see Gillingham’s chairman’s reasons for pulling UKIP’s advert in the Gills v Burnley programme, as recounted in Barney Ronay’s Party Poopers article in WSC 220. Of course, Gills fans wouldn’t question Paul Scally’s words for one moment (no, honest, we wouldn’t), but his assertion that the ad was removed due to FA regulations is interesting, given that the prospective Labour MP for Gillingham not only had a full page ad in the last home programme of the season, but also the benefit of a turnstile handout (of the kind much beloved of Scally during his decade-long tenure at Priestfield) all but demanding that we voted for Paul Clark as he’s such a good bloke. History will show that Paul Clark was re-elected by a margin slender enough to have been influenced by a few hundred football supporters. Not that the Gills chairman would be expecting any return favours in relation to new stadium developments, of course.
Simon Baker, Rochester

From WSC 221 July 2005. What was happening this month

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