I enjoyed the articles on the links between football and rap (WSC 204). One important connection has been overlooked, however. In a slightly surreal interview on Liverpool’s official site from 2001, Dr Dre reveals himself as a fan of the (his words) “cool cats in red”. At the time of the interview, Dre’s Liverpool favourite was Michael Owen, though he says he was first attracted to the Reds by John Barnes. “He was bad,” Dre explains. “Kinda reminded me of Magic Johnson.” He goes on to describe Robbie Fowler and Jamie Redknapp as “old school” and Czech midfielder Patrik Berger as “the bomb”. How long will it be before Eminem admits that Tomas Repka is a role model?
Sam Beckwith, Prague, Czech Republic
Am I the only person who spends Football Focus dreading the inevitable moment when one of the pundits uses the word “not” in its Wayne’s World form? Mark Lawrenson started it but it has recently infected Ray Stubbs, who informed us before the last Old Firm encounter: “Rangers will be looking forward to meeting John Hartson again. Not!” If this continues, how long will it be before Lawro and Stubbsy are treating us to other Wayne’s World staples, such as bursts of air guitar, yelling: “Schwing!” whenever Hazel Irvine appears or accusing Garth Crooks of being “totally bogus”? And what if at some point the BBC pair discover Mike Myers more recent oeuvre and start staring goofily at the camera and saying: “Shagtastic, baby”?
Chris Front, Redcar
I’m sure many of us would applaud Garth Crooks’s support for the recent Independent Football Commission recommendation that black players be fast- tracked to senior administrative positions. However, one thing puzzles me. A Professional Footballers’ Association-backed lobby group is urging Tony Blair and the European Union to prevent eastern European footballers being given their constitutional employment rights when their countries sign up in Brussels later this year. The man charged with leading the PFA-backed team? Er, Garth Crooks. I wonder if the two Garth Crookses might by chance be related?
Chris Parsons, London
Sky’s Goals On Sunday programme on Sunday, January 18, featured Harry Redknapp as a guest with hosts Chris Kamara and Rob McCaffrey (the one who looks like an alien disguised as an earthling). Discussion turned to Paolo Di Canio and his ban for pushing referee Paul Alcock to the ground during his last appearance for Sheffield Wednesday. At this point Kamara revealed that he had recently met Mr Alcock, who was refereeing a lower league game. “I went up and pushed him in the chest. But he didn’t laugh at all,” he revealed. “In fact, he got annoyed and said he didn’t like being reminded of that.” Kamara then ex-pressed his disgust at Alcock’s failure to join in the fun of being pushed around by a large man with a 1980s soul-boy moustache. “He should be dining out on that incident,” he concluded. Could the next person to bump into Chris Kamara please shove him, laugh threateningly, then tell him to be grateful. He’ll be dining out on that for years.
Martin Pike, via email
Your appropriately-named article in WSC 204, The Five Minute Birmingham City, just about sums up the state of the second city’s second team. When a club’s fondly-remembered moment relates to a four-letter word on the T-shirt of a player who is instantly forgettable for any other reason, you have to conclude that there is little in their heritage to get excited about. Let’s hope Brucie can keep it up...
David Evans, via email
I thoroughly enjoyed the article on rap in WSC 204, as I’d never really considered just what similarities there are between the two distinct sets of egotistical, avaricious buffoons – I’m talking about rappers and footballers. However, I had to take issue with the assertion that “football hooliganism has never reared its ugly head in rap lyrics”. Clearly Al Needham never purchased First Offence’s 1991 debut single Hooligan on Blip Records. Allegedly hailing from the teeming slums of Hulme, these Man City supporting yobs, who were presumably still rapping in their thousands in the lower reaches of the Rap League and are still a massive band, attempted to make the Happy Mondays seem like Herman’s Hermits. Remember, this was the immediate post MC Tunes era, when any Manc hard lad who wasn’t at Her Majesty’s Pleasure was entitled to an NME cover shot. Sample lyrics included: “I came to see a football match, not some fairies dancing. I know, I’ll liven it up by giving someone’s face a good stamping.” The chorus was a catchy little thing as well: “Don’t care if we lose, don’t care if we win. Don’t care if we sink, don’t care if we swim. Because you’re gonna get your fucking heads kicked in.” Strangely, I never heard of them again.
Ian Cusack, via email
Having read Paul Wilson’s Observer article (Yawn... it’s the worst ever Premiership) and Stephen Wagg’s The Trying Game (WSC 204) which rejects the claim of the former, I find myself yawning rather than trying to cling on to small mercies. The reason the Premiership is boring is that most of the clubs other than the big three are merely making up the numbers. To win the Premiership and qualify for the Champions League, Arsenal, Manchester United and now Chelsea need to actually beat somebody. It almost seems as if they are playing in the Premier League under sufferance (if Fergie and Wenger’s faces are anything to go by). The only league that matters to the media and armchair fans at the moment is that featuring our three leading teams; the only people who care about what happens to the rest of the Premiership clubs are their own supporters. Tom Watt’s supposedly “off air” remarks about the game between Villa and Palace sum up the disdain in which the big three’s fans (and the media) hold all the other clubs. The harsh fact is that only two clubs have won the Premiership since Blackburn, in 1995, did what has now become the unthinkable. No matter how well you package it, the fact that 85 per cent of the clubs in the Premiership haven’t got a prayer is boring (hasn’t Scottish football had that problem for decades?). Before the formation of the Premiership, even throughout Liverpool’s dominant years, the championship was attainable by clubs which even then were perceived to be unfashionable. Derby, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Leeds United all won the title. There were also near misses by such as QPR, Ipswich, West Ham and Sheffield Wednesday. Should any of these teams ever return to the Premiership, what is the most they could hope for – to do a Leicester and “tweak the tail of the mighty” by taking a well earned point off Arsenal? Even Rochdale, Torquay etc know that one day they may win the league they are currently in. The same can no longer be said for Blackburn and Portsmouth. The sooner the big teams leave for the European league they so obviously desire and return some sort of competition back to the Premiership, the sooner it will become exciting again.
Graham Lightfoot, via email
While discussing this important subject of Thing You Don’t See at Football Anymore with colleagues, instead of installing the latest and greatest productivity tools, we discovered that there are no more sleeve-pullers. Was Steve Archibald the last in a line stretching back to Denis Law (probably the most determined puller – not even releasing his paw when celebrating a goal), George Best et al? He struggled to think of any players that pull their own sleeves today. Perhaps they are prohibited from tugging their own shirt because of the highly developed dive reflex that the merest grab of shiny nylon now provokes?
Kev Mears, via email
Despite being an avid follower of both Crewe Alexandra and popular soap opera Coronation Street for many a year, I’ve amazingly only just realised that Dario Gradi (long-term, highly-respected Alex manager) was obviously the inspiration for the character of Roy Cropper (Street cafe owner). Consider the evidence. There’s the “separated at birth” physical likeness. It’s impossible to watch Roy serve a bacon sandwich without thinking of Dario in the technical zone, shrugging his shoulders as yet another pass rolls meekly behind the goalline. Then there is the belief in youth. Roy’s employment of young Sarah Platt (surely destined for greater things – a Rover’s Return barmaid in later life?) is clearly an analogy with Dario’s protégés being nurtured through the academy before being sold on to bigger clubs such as, er, West Brom. Furthermore, what’s the name of Sarah’s brother? David Platt. Obviously a reference to another Crewe old boy (and ex-England captain). Then there is the name of Roy’s cafe (Roy’s Rolls). This pays homage to Crewe, long-term home of Rolls-Royce cars (until recently bought out by the Germans). Definitely an open-and-shut case. This of course begs the question: Do any readers know of any other soap characters so clearly based on football managers?
Andrew Brown, Teddington
The editorial in WSC 204 makes a fair point, but giving a Champions League place to the FA Cup winners can only spell disaster for the competition. First, it would cease to be “The FA Cup”, “The world’s greatest cup competition” etc and would instead become “The fourth Champions League place competition”. The Premiership’s equivalent of a fourth-place play-off, with the piece of silverware being as irrelevant as the ones they dish out in the Nationwide versions. Witness Liverpool’s assertion in 2001 that, despite winning “the treble”, clinching fourth spot on the last day of the season was their biggest achievement. Second, with Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea pretty much a shoo-in for the top three Premiership spots for the foreseeable future, the Cup final would be contested by either Liverpool or Newcastle (or both) every year. With an easier route to the CL available to them, they can throw everything into those six games and to hell with the league. So much for your theory that more teams outside the “big four” would have a crack at winning it. I accept that said four teams’ stranglehold on the cup is not ideal, but ripping the very soul out of the contest in this way is not the answer. Although last year’s winners were Arsenal, Southampton did come very close to upsetting the apple cart, and don’t forget that the two beaten semi-finalists were First Division sides. And anyway, if teams such as Sheffield Utd or Watford did go all the way and find themselves in the Champions League while still in Division One, UEFA would whip that fourth spot away from us faster than Thierry Henry on steroids.
Martin Mannion, via email
The first million-pound footballer (WSC 204) Trevor Francis has often been described as not having lived up to his potential or the transfer fee. A European Cup winners’ medal might suggest otherwise, but if there was a problem it may now have been revealed in last month’s WSC where Trev was shown wearing a pair of size 400 Adidas boots. I’m no expert, but surely he has them on the wrong feet?
Tim Manns, Bath
Mark Halsey may not have broken the spirit or the letter of the law in the Henry/Villa free-kick incident, but he certainly drove an entire Panzer division through accepted convention in a manner befitting Erwin Rommel. I saw Sammy Igoe bag a similar goal against the Owls on opening day. As a Wednesday fan, I was livid (so was Shefki Kuqi – no change there) but I do support the ref’s principle. Surely there must be a limit on the time that can elapse before a quick free-kick is taken, however? I suggest the following: when a free-kick is awarded, the attacking team has the option of signalling to the ref that they want to take a proper set piece. They have ten seconds to give that signal or take a quickie. During that time, the defending team would have no excuse for faffing around. If there’s neither a signal nor a kick inside ten seconds, the ref blows up again. No more option for the quickie set-piece routine. Sorted.
Alex J Dury, via email
From WSC 205 March 2004. What was happening this month