THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Following the recent kerfuffle between Ashley Cole, Nicolas Anelka et al at High­bury, most commentators seemed to agree that Cole was as much to blame as Anelka and deserved to walk too. Obviously Cole’s reputation is now goi­ng before him, but surely in this case Cole had every right to pick up the ball and return it to the centre circle in his own time? What none of the so-called “ex­perts” ever cares to mention in these cases is that once a goal has been scored, the scored-against team has possession of the ball and should not expect to have to deal with a full-on assault from the opposing team’s front line (everyone seemed to conveniently miss Robbie Fowler’s rugby tackle during the same incident). If they waste time returning it, the ref can show a yellow card and add on a few seconds accordingly – simple. OK, Cole raised an arm, but didn’t we all when someone tried to grab our ball? No, in this case the referee was ab­solutely right and for once the video panel also saw sense. I think it was Eusebio who started this trend for grabbing balls out of nets in the 1966 World Cup against North Korea and the sooner FIFA send out a directive banning such blatant gamesmanship the better for all concerned.
Martin D Ling (not the Os manager), Bethnal Green

Dear WSC
I feel I must comment on Waxing Lyrical (WSC 204). Much as I enjoyed the piece, there was a truly glaring omission regarding arguably British rap’s finest album and in my opinion the greatest football reference in hip-hop. In 1990 the London Posse released Gangster Chronicles which was, as I far as I know, the first album in which British rappers actually rapped in a British accent, thus reversing the previous trend for “fake Yank ac­cents”. Not content with being a ground-breaking album it also contained the line in the song Pass me the Rizla, “When I kick it I’m wicked on the grass like Rodney Wallace”. Bionic’s reference may have been to drug taking and not football, however it still remains a classic album with a classic line.
Diego Black, via email

Dear WSC
On reading Al Needham’s Waxing Lyrical one further reference to football in hip-hop sprung to mind: on his excellent album Run Come Save Me Roots Manuva (perhaps Britain’s finest hip-hop artist) provides an unlikely name-checking of Jimmy Floyd Hassel­baink (to rhyme with Lloyds TSB), though I forget whether this is some comment on the Dutchman’s money-grabbing tendencies.
Pete Gordon-Smith, Berlin

Dear WSC
I for one am glad Michel Platini has turned his back on coaching in favour of football administration and look forward to the day that he be­comes FIFA president (WSC 205). Maybe then we can move away from trivial observations on female football kit and tackle the real issues that dog the modern game. Platini is correct – clubs who are running up huge debts to compete with others who run their affairs correctly are cheating. Perhaps I’m still traumatised by the injury-time equaliser conceded at the City Ground this month, but Nottingham Forest have become the latest villains in my eyes. In the same week that Forest announce they are unable to pay a bill of £209,000 in interest they are still allowed to bring in a  new manager and two new signings from a Premiership club. Walsall, with over a de­cade of prudent management keeping them in the black, soldier on with a pat­ched-up squad to replace the in­jured, the sus­pen­ded and the loss of the influential Paul Mer­son. Inevitably, Forest’s new signing Andy Impey scores with his first touch. If cheats never prosper perhaps Impey will not score when Forest play Sheffield Wed­nesday in next season’s Second Division battle of the has-beens.
Paul Giess, via email

Dear WSC
I agree with most of Graham Lightfoot’s points (Letters, WSC 205), but I do take issue with his suggestion that fans of the “big three” hold all the other clubs in disdain – at least, no more than any supporter of any club holds other clubs in disdain. Neither of us really knows how true this is, but I tend to think there are a lot more like me (I’m a Chelsea fan) who would prefer a more competitive league (hey, maybe we’d actually win it – but probably not) and would definitely not welcome some sort of European league. Even if it did happen, I imagine that a new aristocracy would develop and, in a few years’ time, a European League Two would be mooted. Don’t tar us all with the same brush. I would even like Leeds to survive – financially, that is, and in the First Division. Then the Second.
Peter Collins, Wimbledon

Dear WSC
Now that your series on Things You Don’t See At Football Anymore seems to be  well established, perhaps we could start a re­lated series of Things That Should Never Be Seen Again At Football. I suggest a total ban on: a) playing I Feel Good over the PA when the home team scores; b) teams running on accompanied by Carmina Burana; and c) Garth Crooks.
Joe Williams, via email

Dear WSC
Lamenting times past with my even-more-middle-aged boss recently, I had an idea whose time has surely come in this age of multi-commentary options on  digital TV. If we now have the choice of listening to John Motson, local radio, crowd only or the thoughts of two fans whose vision is of the distinctly blinkered variety, surely for overseas matches there is room for “nostalgia-comm”, delivered down a crackling phone line in a way guaranteed to stir the blood of every fortysomething in the audience? If there was one thing that made World Cup matches of yore so exotic, it was the fact that the commentator genuinely sounded like he was at the edge of the earth, his excitement rasping through the telephone-mike like the  ranting of an asthmatic Spitfire pilot. Motty in Japan two years ago, on the other hand, sounded like he was in Bas­ildon. To geeks, this represents progress. To aesthetes, it remains a backward step. To TV executives with a little wit, I trust it will be an opportunity.
Jeffrey Prest, via email

Dear WSC
The article on Team Bath in WSC 205 touched a raw nerve with Doc Martens Southern League Western Division spectators. Especially those who follow their team away and have had the jaw-dropping experience of Team Bath’s ground. We can appreciate that Rod Geddy has done a great job in developing another route for young men who may want to put some­thing back into football. But it kind of sticks in our craws – well, it sticks in mine – that every other club at our level scrapes and cajoles and gives up a lot to get to and stay where we are. It appears that TB’s effort all goes into just running a potentially very successful team. Have you been to their ground? No food. No beer. Programme that is a glossy with an insert for the current game. Builders’ huts for changing rooms. And they charge a fiver for that. No money-raising – raffle, golden goal, bacteria pies, quiz nights, players’ sponsors – nowt. Beautiful pitch. Fantastic floodlights. But nothing like what we’d expect a senior non-League team to be like. No spectators – their home gate is in fact almost always dominated by the visitors. Every other clubs’ players work and sometimes can’t get time off to travel to mid-week away games. Meanwhile, it is believed that the TB lads train daily, have fantastic physio and massage regimes and a string of allegedly well paid coaches to work with them. Personally, I don’t subscribe to it but for most Western Division clubs the perception of Team Bath is of full-time pampered ex-pros masquerading as students – and not even doing a proper degree. Any other club in the Southern League not getting their facilities up to scratch wouldn’t remain there, let alone be admitted in the first place.
Ian Stewart, via email

Dear WSC
Your article on the Kick It Out scheme (WSC 205) coincided with examples of why we can never be complacent when  it comes to racism at football. During  Feb­ruary 2004 I went to the Watford v Sun­derland game and the Tranmere v Swan­sea FA Cup fifth-round tie. I’ve been to a number of Watford games in recent years, always sitting in the family areas, and have enjoyed the atmosphere. For the Sunderland game, though, I sat in the home end and saw the side of football that kept me away from it for many years. A man in front of me in his late thirties constantly made reference to his mate about Mick McCarthy being a “fucking Tesco Paddy”. At about the same time I heard a man behind me call Watford’s Micah Hyde a “fucking use­less wog”. I moved seats for the  last few minutes as even without the racial overtones the general language was enough to make your blood boil. I was with my nine-year-old mixed-race  daughter so did not approach stewards, but I felt I’d get no backing from other supporters who remained unfazed. The following Saturday Tranmere’s Eugene Dadi, a French-African forward, was substituted close to full-time and got a standing ovation. A teenage lad behind me was also clapping and singing his name etc but then turned to his mate and said: “He’s gone to get his banana.” I did actually challenge him and he said he was sorry etcetera but I asked him to think about what he was saying and why he thought it was funny. I know you can’t account for individual comments but I think the lack of more overt racism at grounds is based on loyalty to individuals rather than acceptance or understanding of a particular race or culture. It’s these small incidents that justifiably make black and Asian people feel that football stadiums are still hostile places. It’s up to long-standing white supporters to make people feel that they are welcome and speak up en masse when individuals make comments, no matter how isolated they think the incidents are.
Steve Penny, Watford

Dear WSC
As the author of Casuals, I thought your piece on the vogue for hoolie books (WSC 205) was fair yet made a rather obvious point: hooligan books are popular because they are: a) nostalgic; and b) violent. This is a potent mix and applies to everything from crime thrillers right through to books about terrorists, bouncers, drug dealers, gangsters and other brutal people. The deeper psychological reasons for the success of these books is something for the Tefal heads at Leicester Uni to debate. My own online footy fanzine, YGGY- FHKI or You’re Gonna Get Your Fuckin’ Heads Kicked In, trades on this very romanticised version of all our hoo­lie yesterdays but also addresses some of the meatier issues of the day. Of course the tragic consequences of hooliganism aren’t something to get dewy-eyed over, but it was and remains part and parcel of the modern game, no matter how much the administrators would like to pretend otherwise.
Phil Thornton, via email

Dear WSC
Forgive me if this all sounds a bit “angry from Tunbridge Wells” but I’m really cheesed off with you for printing the  letter in WSC 205 having a needless pop at Birmingham City. It’s not the content that particularly bothers me – as a Blues fan (and Brummies) we’re used to crude stereotypes of us all being thick, violent meatheads – it’s the fact that you bothered to print it at all. WSC has for years  been the sole voice of intelligent football comment and steered well away from partisanship, so why bother now? I could go on and point out that these are probably the best seasons we’ve ever had. I could point to the progress made on and off the pitch. I could also point out that we’ve beaten the Villa twice, had the first England cap since the 1970s and – yep, I’ll say it – finished the top club in the Midlands for the first time in almost 100 years. But what’s the point? Our two games last year had enough bad blood and I’m surprised you gave space to a letter that was as pointless as it was meaningless. I really thought WSC was better than that.
Chris Sanderson, via email

Dear WSC
Your editorial in WSC 205 condemning the silliness of the proposed “rebranding” of the divisions of the Football League was highly creditable but did not go quite far enough. Rather than upgrade Division Three to Division Two, Two to One and One to the Football League Cham­pionship, as the proposal sugges­ted, a more sophisticated and valid argument would be to reverse the changes made in 1992. If we had the Premiership followed by Football League Divisions Two, Three and Four the implied relationship be­tween the two competitions would be­come completely clear even to the casual follower of the game. The Football League would be paying itself a great service by associating itself directly with the Premiership, rather than disassociating itself as a separate competition. There is incalculable value in keeping the structure of sporting competitions clear in the minds of casual followers (or, in marketing-speak, “potential target aud­iences”). Boxing and speedway are two sports which have confused and alienated the uncommitted in the past generation – who knows if the latter’s Elite league is higher than its Premier? Changes within rugby league do not seem to be helping its lesser brethren and there would seem little mileage in suggesting to the followers of Rochdale FC that, despite no top-six finish in many years, they have somehow risen from Division Four to Division Two.
Old Sport, Gosport

Dear WSC
Could I make an appeal on behalf of York City? Two season ago, chairman Douglas Craig promised to kill the club and dance on our grave. The team, relegation candidates up till then, remembered how to play football. They forgot again when John Bachelor saved us. The next year Bachelor proved to have not just feet but an entire torso of clay. After the sup­porters’ trust wrestled ownership from him, we dropped from being automatic promotion contenders to the middle of the table. This time around we were threatened with eviction from our home Bootham Crescent and won our first four games. We haven’t man­aged one since the trust did a deal with the landlords. So could a WSC reader and wannabe evil genius please manufacture another crisis for us? Just lasting till mid-April, say, to give us a chance at the play-offs. Thank you.

From WSC 206 April 2004. What was happening this month

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