THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
I’m sure this is very old hat and we’re just being ignorant, but in a recent pub conversation I asked a Brighton fan which team Charlie Oatway was named after. He had no idea. Oatway does indeed have 11 first names. It’s presumably a 1970s outfit, but we couldn’t get past the goalie, Ant­hony. The rest is Philip David Terry Frank Donald Stanley Gerry Gordon Stephen James Oatway. Can anyone help?
Jeff Moffat, London NW6

Dear WSC
Kenneth Jones pedals a relatively new urban myth about the relative season-ticket sales at the Villa and Birmingham City in the WSC pre-season guide (WSC 211). Over the past couple of years, nonsense about Brum­mies supporting the Blues and the M5 corridor following the Villa has been presented as an alternative trophy cabinet by many Blues fans, ably assisted by the local media. It’s a complete myth of course. It’s difficult to get season-ticket sales figures over the decades, but in the 115 years  presented on the Birmingham City ar­chive, Villa have had higher and more often than not considerably higher  average attendances than the Blues 106 times, even when the Villa were in a lower division. Just to pull out a couple of examples to challenge Kenneth’s assertion that the Blues have sold more season tickets than the Villa “year in, year out”, it is difficult to see how this could possibly be the case in 1988-89, when their average attendance was a quarter of the Villa’s, or in 1996-97, when it was less than half. I could go on, but it starts to sound a bit sad...
Patrick Saunders, Birmingham

Dear WSC
The arcane club facts in your pre-season guide (WSC 211) were entertaining  and intriguing. However, Burnley fan  And­rew Firmin should note that Prince Albert Victor was not the future Edward VII. He was the eldest son of the future Edward VII, the Duke of Clar­ence, familiarly known as “Prince Eddy”. His name is large­ly unknown these days (although some ill-in­for­med individuals be­lieve that he was Jack the Rip­per) since he never succeeded to the throne, dy­ing in the great influenza epi­demic of 1892. Also, you noticed how hard it is to get a decent meat pie these days?
John Paines, via email

Dear WSC
The piece on the history of shirt sponsorship (WSC 211) was nicely teased by your Coventry City photo on page three – though I was a little surprised that an infamous story attached to the Sky Blues’  success in the FA Cup was not mentioned at all. At Wembley in 1987, Coventry’s op­ponents Tottenham Hotspur took to the field all in white, but instead of every shirt showing the Holsten Pils branding for which they had become renowned, only a selection did. Some players were en­tirely sponsor-free on their shirts and it’s something for which I have never really encountered a proper explanation. Com­mentators chose not to mention it at the time, and the only post-match mention I remember was in a stop-start documentary on the game in which the action was frequently frozen and a crude pen circle was drawn around the front of two contrasting shirts in the freeze-frame as if to emphasise the difference. In a subsequent Saint & Greavsie annual (showing my age here), Brian Moore’s article of reflection on all his  own working Cup finals seemed to claim that nobody noticed at the time. Well,  I was 14 on that day and it was literally the first thing I spotted as the two teams emerged. You mention potential new methods of promoting a brand on the pitch, such as boot soles and baseball caps – well, Steve Foster spent an entire career turning down sponsorship of his famous headband from various companies. I’m not sure other frequent headband wearers, such as Eric Young, were ever given quite the same amount of commercial attention, though.
Matthew Rudd, East Yorkshire

Dear WSC
What has happened to preclude the use of the words “trophy” and “competition” in the media? Clubs no longer win  trophies, only silverware. The worst protagonist must be Alan Shearer, who in every interview conducted feels the need to make mention of his desire to reward the Toon Army with some silverware before his retirement. It conjures up an image of the last home game of this season at St James’, when an emotional Shearer thanks the home fans for their support and informs them tearfully (natch...) that complimentary sets of steak knives can be collected on their way out in order that he fulfils his lifelong desire.
Ian Herbert, Sutton Coldfield

Dear WSC
Go on, admit it – the only reason you featured the Fourth Division’s 1975-76 season (WSC 211) was that you just wanted an excuse to publish that picture of Mark Palios and his spectacular hair.
Andy Lewis, Prague

Dear WSC
Am I the only person who pays for Sky Sports in the hope of seeing live action and goals from the start of the move, rather than just catching the ball has it enters the net? The recent Arsenal v Middlesbrough game was a classic example. Arsenal’s equaliser was being shown again when lo and behold José Antonio Reyes finishes what in replay looked to be a great goal. No apologies are ever forthcoming from Martin Tyler or the rest of the Sky team. BBC and ITV are no better, as they will show a near miss or a badly timed foul while someone is making a brilliant 50-metre run into the opposition box. Can I make a simple request to TV sports producers that action replays should be shown only when there’s no action, not when there is some action going on? Common sense says that if the balls in play let’s see it live.
David Prendergast, CARP (Cancel Action RePlays), Oldham

Dear WSC
Further to Boyd Hilton’s entry in the season guide supplement (WSC 211)about the world’s coolest film directors be­ing Arsenal fans. He listed three, but neglected to mention Jake Scott, son of Alien director Ridley, who always puts an Arsenal reference in his films. My favourite being two characters, Dixon and Win­terburn, who pop up from time to time in the excellent Plunkett & MacLeane.
Dan Rickard, via email

Dear WSC
Do modern footballers shave their legs? It struck me that this might be the case when looking at some old videos of the 1970s featuring whole teams of players with hairs liberally sprouting above and below the knee – George Graham and George Best were particularly hirsute. But today’s players seem entirely smooth-skinned. Does shaving help them to run faster? Or is it vanity, as shaved legs probably help emphasise muscle definition? I suspect it’s the latter, as players are also forever whipping their shirts off to flash their toned pecs. How long before the female models in TV ads for Immac et al are replaced by strapping centre-halves beaming proudly as they glide the obligatory silk scarf down their hairless calves? Am I dwelling on this too much?
Rob Weston, via email

Dear WSC
I’m a local park’s league referee. But I’m also a supporter of a Prem­iership club and therefore I find myself in a strange situation over the actions of the hapless Andy D’Urso. I’m happy to admit that he had a stinker on the day, but then how many of us have off days at the office? I hate it when a match is decided by an over-zealous official and I’m just as happy as the next person to blame my team’s failure to capture that last Cham­pions League place on the referee. But what will the FA achieve by distancing themselves from their employee and charging him so  publicly? A common-sense approach would have been: “Yes, he made a mistake and we are dealing with it internally. He is human, however, and referees have a difficult enough job in the modern game.” Do the FA think that their ap­proach will improve refereeing in the Prem­iership? I fear not. No one performs very well when they know that one mo­ment’s loss of concentration will leave them publicly humiliated by their employer. What about young referees looking to make it to the top? Do the FA think that their behaviour will encourage new recruits? D’Urso’s failure to send off Barry Ferguson was a dreadful oversight, but I’ve seen worse mistakes that have cost teams games, titles and cup finals. All went unpunished because the er­ror was based on interpretation and not ad­min­istration. I, for one, hope that Mr D’Urso will learn from his error and return to the Premiership. At least we’ll know that one of them is human.
Mike Freeman, Wivenhoe

Dear WSC
Much as I appreciate Arsenal’s laudable achievement in breaking Forest’s long-standing record of 42 games undefeated, there seems to have been a collective mem­ory loss regarding the success of  the Clough and Taylor team. A number  of journalists, including the Guardian’s David Lacey and the BBC’s correspondent Kevin Geary, have recently des­cribed Forest’s tactics as “defensive” or “functional” and Graeme Souness even went so far as to assert that Forest were “dour” (and he should certainly know the meaning of the word). Funnily enough, even some of the Forest players who’ve been interviewed regarding Arsenal’s record seem to have suffered similar memory loss – Viv Anderson appears to believe that his full-back partner for most of the season was Frank Clark (a mere 12 starts and one of those at centre-back) when it was actually Colin Barrett (33) and all seem to have  forgotten the role David Needham play­ed, constantly referring to the Lloyd-Burns axis. Forest actually won ten of the first 13 games played during the championship-winning 1977-78 season, scoring 28 goals. After the last defeat of that season (to Leeds on November 19) Forest went undefeated for the rest, including a memorable 4-0 thrashing of Man Utd at Old Trafford. Indeed, Forest actually went 40 games undefeated in all competitions between the loss to West Brom in the 1978 FA Cup sixth round on March 11 that year and the later league defeat by Liverpool on December 17 – a record that is highly unlikely to be overtaken, as is Forest’s one defeat in 62 competitive games between November 1977 and December 1978. However, it’s the dismissal of the two European Cup successes that really rankles. In 1978-79, Forest played nine games and scored 19 goals. I’ll admit that it is possible that many people base their memory of Forest on the 1-0 victory over Hamburg in the 1980 final – a backs-to-the-wall win if ever there was one, but the team was weakened by injuries and had 17-year-old Gary Mills partnering Garry Birtles up front. I’m sure that one day Arsenal will win the top European trophy, but there is one record that Forest hold that is never likely to be broken – by some distance, Not­tingham remains the smallest city or town ever to host a European Cup or Champions League winning side.
Geoff Wallis, via email

Dear WSC
I see MK Dons have embraced the idea that a club’s badge should say something significant about the club. It appears to be a giant arrow pointing downwards. The only weak point is that it has a base line, when most of us would prefer there to be a pit at the bottom of it.
Mark Eltringham, Warrington

Dear WSC
It seems that no matter how long the present play-off promotion format will be with us, there will always be those who criticise the way the play-offs work. The letters page of WSC 211 had such sentiments, the previous month’s issue had an article saying such and this reflects the attitudes of most pundits in most other forms of media. However, the format is used in most other sports that WSC readers will have heard of. For example, nobody mentions that Michael Schumacher was “lucky” when he wins a 90-minute race at the end of a three-day qualifying period for a grand prix. Nobody assumes luck was a factor when the Olympic athletes win their final after heats, quarter-finals and semi-finals when there could have been people in those previous races going faster. And, coming back to football, a team that wins all 12 qualifying games for a World Cup tournament has never been judged to be unlucky if they go out in the first round and the eventual winners only have to win seven matches to ensure  victory in the tournament. I’ve never heard anyone grumble about these methods of deciding how to judge the pinnacle of those sports I mentioned. A long qualifying period to get rid of the crap and then into the elite competition seems to be normal, so why should domestic football be any different? The play-offs are only thought of as being a strange concept because the top two teams get promoted at the end of  the season. One way to get rid of this would be to make the Premiership, Championship and all other leagues follow the innovative approach of rugby league, which produces a thrilling, visually spectacular climax to every season that has become increasingly popular among fans. The way they achieve this? By having a series of play-offs.
Phil Griffiths, via email

Dear WSC
If I see or hear the words galáctico and Real Madrid in the same sentence once more I’m going to scream. Aaaaarrgghh!
John Perry, Chelmsford

From WSC 212 October 2004. What was happening this month

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