THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Is anyone else irritated by the increasing tendency of radio and TV commentators to refer to a shot hitting “the frame of the goal” or, even worse, “the frame of the goals”? How many sets of goals do they think the attacker is shooting at? Com­mentators should drop these expressions ad return to using post, bar or, where appropriate, the nicely precise “angle of post and bar”.
John Perry, Chelmsford

Dear WSC
Every year at the CBI conference, there’s always a pompous man in a suit who tells us that what is killing our nation is regulation. Or as it is invariably called, red tape. Yet anyone who has tried to go any distance on a train will know that, if anything, there’s not enough regulation around. And so it is with football. How is it that just about anyone can take over a football club, with­out the approval of the game’s governing body? The farce at Luton two years ago, where the new owners were allowed to remain anonymous and sack the management team and appoint an official from a local rival to run the club should have been enough for the Football Asso­ciation or the League to tighten regulations on club ownership. But it seems that any old carpetbagger can take over a club, without hindrance or scrutiny. And once they become owners, the authorities have few, if any rules in place to regulate them, however roguish their actions. The situation at Wrexham (WSC 215), illustrates the point yet again. While shame­less profiteering threatens the future of the club, the League stands by. If they have no powers to intervene, then they should have. Red tape? Give me more of it.
Neville Hadsley, Coventry

Dear WSC
The editorial in WSC 215 makes interesting reading. Not only was there the “traditional” racist chanting at the England v Turkey match in Sunderland but that rebel Wayne Rooney was seemingly ignoring the “No Ball Games” sign on the executive housing estate built on the site of the demolished Roker Park on his full England debut...
Jeff Scott, Brighton

Dear WSC
Why do managers have tracksuits with their initials on them? If it is so that their players can remember who they are, just putting initials on is a bit of a tease – the full name would surely be safer. Also, how does this work? Do clubs have a little old lady/gentleman who sews the initials on, or do they buy lots of tracksuits bearing the initials of anyone who might possibly become their manager in the next few years?
David Hood, Bewdley

Dear WSC
While sort-of watching one of those ubiquitous “Look at the value of my house, I want to sell-up and move to the country ’cos I’m loaded” programmes that litter the TV schedules, I heard the two magic words, Plymouth Argyle. Now, if anything can get me animated it is the mention of my favourite team in an unexpected context. This particular episode concerned a financial advisor living in the Midlands who was introduced as a sporty-type and once played professional football for Argyle, who was looking for a farmhouse type-dwelling in the Northamptonshire countryside. The name was unfamiliar, yet he looked not much older than myself. Surely I must have seen him play. My mind raced to the dark days of the early 1990s when we seemed to have no end of bit-part players who played once and were never heard of again. I delved through the (more numerous than you might believe) Argyle reference books. No mention there, yet every other hap­­less one-game wonder merited at least an acknowledgment. I wasn’t going to be beaten, maybe one of my mates would remember him, probably missing a simple defensive header to allow a workaday striker at some northern club grab an easy third goal as we slipped to yet another away defeat. I contacted them all. One even conducted further research, but the name still proved elusive. So I turn to you, the venerable readers of WSC. Is Gareth Dale telling the truth, or is he guilty of artistic licence (to put it politely)?
Steven East, Plymouth

Dear WSC
The dire situation at Wrexham (WSC 215) has ramifications at other clubs. The chief executive at Shrewsbury Town was previously involved with Wrexham. Last month he was arrested after Wrexham’s bonkers owner accused him of stealing gate money. This follows another director at Shrewsbury being investigated for fraud after the collapse of his company. Shrewsbury fans are watching the events at Wrexham with a sense of unease. Telford went down the toilet last year after an “ambitious” chairman over-reach­ed himself. Wrexham are on the brink of extinction due to the activities of the club’s current chairman. So far, our chairman, Roland Wycherley, remains a trusted individual, but when other peo­ple involved at board level with Shrews­bury have been called on by the police, it makes you wonder what is going on. Maybe we don’t have a right to de­mand that our directors are whiter than white, but some of these people need to be told that football clubs are not a wealthy man’s plaything. Football isn’t Hollywood – just a big train set. When the train flies off the rails you can’t just pick it back up and put it back on the tracks. Football clubs are cultural focal points and the lower down the league tables you go, the more obvious this is. Apart from annual events like the flower show, very few events in Shrews­bury attract four thousand people and the Shropshire Horticultural Society wouldn’t be able to get that many if they were doing a show every other week. The problem is that we live in a society increasingly absolved of responsibility. If club directors – at any club, not just Shrews­bury – don’t take the safe stewardship of an important cultural icon seriously, then we will continue to lose those things that bring our society together.
Jon Matthias, Shrewsbury

Dear WSC
In this era of chairmen sacking managers af­ter just a few poor results, two clubs stand out as beacons in the gloom as a shining ex­ample of how sticking with the manager can reap dividends. The obvious example is Manchester Uni­ted. Even those who hate them would admit that they deserve cred­it for sticking with the Old Red Nose when they were looking a poor side. The other example is of course Peter­borough United. Well done to the chairman for realising that despite five straight defeats, despite battling relegation for the past three seasons, despite having almost the lowest attendances in the league, Posh are a thriving club just a win away from a push for promotion. Barry Fry the manager has been given time to turn it round by Barry Fry the chairman. Congratulations Posh! Still, we could be about to drop into the Con­ference, like our neighbours.
Darren Fletcher, Peterborough

Dear WSC
I bet you thought that professional football was a spectator sport organised so that fans could watch games? Think again. This season Notts County are due to play their first ever league game in Yeovil and the fixtures computer was kind to us, scheduling the game for Easter Monday. Great for a day out, especially for the “ground tickers” who have watch­ed Notts play on virtually every other League ground in the country. Notts could expect a good following and Yeovil would take a fair few bob through the turnstiles, so a definite win-win situation. Or so you would have thought. For reasons beyond comprehension, Yeovil asked Notts for agreement to re­arrange the fixture for the next day with a 7.45pm kick-off. Even more staggeringly Notts agreed to it (yes, that Notts County, the one where the fans own 30.2 per cent of the club and have a representative on the board). This means that Notts fans wanting to attend the game will have to take a day off work and then face the prospect of a very late drive home, or if they have no transport an overnight stay and a second day off work. So from a win-win situation the two clubs have turned it into a lose-lose. Yeovil will be several thousand pounds down on the gate, Notts will have a fraction of the support they would have had the day before and many fans will lose out on seeing the game and a visit to a “new” ground. So there you have it – hand over your season-ticket money, buy the replica shirts, pay out for the raffle tickets, but don’t expect to be taken into account when it matters. I don’t have a problem with getting time off and could afford an overnight stay, but now I wouldn’t give Yeovil a penny of my money. I have booked a holiday in the sun instead.
Steve Westby, The Pie, Nottingham

Dear WSC
Having followed with interest the debate about the “BIG SCARY DIAGNAL” that appeared on Micky Adams’s half-time notes (Letters, WSC 213), I decided to settle the issue as to the effectiveness of this move once and for all, on the basis that if it was good enough for Micky, it was good enough for the Notting Hill and Ealing High School Girls U14 Hockey Squad. I spent lesson after lesson on the Big Scary Diagnal, until my charges knew not only what it was, but also that it is best implemented in a reverse Christmas Tree formation with an “anchor” midfielder, bless ’em. By the time of the big match they could have had a sensible argument with Alan Hansen, if you can imagine such a thing. They’ve now played six matches using the BSD, scoring a rocking 12 goals and letting in but three. So the moral is really that, no matter how much the BBC may want him as a pundit, Micky Adams’s true calling in life is to be a girl’s U14 hockey coach. But then, judging by some of what Leicester produced under him, he es­sen­tially was one last season anyway.
Andrew Weston, via email

Dear WSC
I remember watching Rosenborg on the telly when they played Blackburn in 1995-96 and Brian Moore telling me quite firmly that it was pronounced “ROO-sen-borg” and backing it up with a story about the club official who said: “Well, you wouldn’t like it if we called them LYE-ver-pool would you?” So how come this time around everybody’s calling them “ROSE-en-burg” (or in Jonathan bloody Pearce’s case alternating between bellowing “ROSS-en-burg!” and “ROZZ-en-burg!”)? Or is it just that Big Ron’s found a new job in the BBC pronunciation department?
Peter Winnall, via email

Dear WSC
When did “bragging rights” come into existence? Whenever a team wins a derby match these days, their supporters are said to be in possession of it, a phrase I had not heard of until a few years ago, though it’s now repeated in the media just about every week. The implication is that a great deal of noise is involved, with rights-holders parading around their workplace, replica shirt stretched across their midriff, continually yelling the score and observing that “it’s gone very quiet” in the area occupied by the fans of the rival team. Home-made banners may be involved, too, though I’m not clear on that point. As I understand it, the braggers are at liberty to continue shouting and pointing until such time as their team loses a derby fixture, at which points the sacred “rights” are transferred to the other side. I’ve nev­er yet seen this ceremony in action, but that could simply be because I work from home and the postman doesn’t know who I support. Lucky old me.
John Andrews, Twickenham

Dear WSC
As I understand it, the original reason behind lunchtime kick-offs was to calm fans down in highly charged games, by keeping people out of the pub beforehand or whatever. Having attended all the Birmingham derbies since Birmingham City arrived in the Premiership, I can testify that to a large extent this works (off the pitch, anyway). However a problem occurs when the lunchtime kick-off isn’t a particularly rancorous game. Villa have played Chel­sea twice this season; both games kicked off at lunchtime for the benefit of TV view­ers. Despite both games being play­ed in front of pretty much full houses, the atmosphere declined accordingly – it’s very hard to get excited at 12.45. The safety reason for the lunchtime kick-off has, like most other things in football, been hijacked by Sky to enable them to churn out even more televised football, with a consequent worsening in the atmosphere at the ground. But Sky will get theirs – they had to knock the Villa v Portsmouth lunchtime pay-per-view game out for £3, as they realised that it was hardly one for the discerning neu­tral. That’ll learn ’em.
Leo Foster, West Heath

Dear WSC
Can I congratulate the BBC sound department for their wonderful innovation on December 11’s Match of the Day? I know I will not be the only person who enjoyed it, but what a pleasure it was to bear witness to the words “Your commentator is Jonathan Pearce” being followed by a gloriously deafening silence. I can only sympathise with the thousands of viewers who would have missed out on this because they had already done the job themselves by pressing the mute but­ton on their remote.
Keith Watson, via email

From WSC 216 February 2005. What was happening this month

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