I enjoyed Roger Titford’s nostalgic piece about half-time scoreboards (WSC 202). Many people will remember Huddersfield Town’s big scorebox at the old Leeds Road ground. It was manned from within and, although it couldn’t boast Fulham-style coloured lights, it was still a complicated business to fathom its information. Scores were displayed in three groups (A, B & C) of eight and unless you watched it constantly, you couldn’t be sure whether the scores shown were from Group A or Group B. I missed many a goal and other dramatic incidents early in second halves through over-attentiveness to my programme to see how (for example) Plymouth and Blackburn were getting on. It was usually 0-0.
Stuart Barker, Carlisle
I find it strange that someone who identifies himself as a Brighton fan (Chris Webb, WSC 202), doesn’t know which town the club plays in. Withdean Stadium is in Brighton, not Hove, by about half a mile. It’s also slightly misleading to say that Falmer is “four miles outside Brighton”. Four miles outside the city centre, perhaps, but just inside inside the city boundary of Brighton & Hove – which is why the city council was able to give the club planning permission for the site, and why everyone was subsequently so annoyed that the government called in the plans.
Nick Szczepanik, via email
In Matthew Dixon’s letter in WSC 202, he is correct in saying that Peter Withe did score against Sheffield United in spite of being a Blades player on loan to Birmingham, but the match was played at Bramall Lane not at St Andrew’s (as Matthew stated). Early in the 1987-88 season the Blades had goalkeeper Roger Hansbury on loan from Birmingham whilst Withe went the other way. Billy McEwan (Blades manager at the time) and Birmingham’s manager agreed that Hansbury and Withe would face each other in the Sheffield United v Birmingham fixture on a Tuesday night in October 1987. Birmingham won 2-0, with Withe getting both goals. After the match, Reg Brealey (chairman of Sheffield United) was furious with McEwan and told him that he had made a big “cock-up”. Withe did not play for either club in the Birmingham v Sheffield United fixture in April 1988. Birmingham won 1-0 with the goal coming from ex-Blade Steve Wigley.
Peter Sharpe, via email
Due to some last-minute rescheduling by the BBC, I recently found myself watching the results of the Tory leadership challenge. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not particularly au fait with who’s who in the current Conservative Party hierarchy. Still, I was most taken aback when none other than Portsmouth supremo Harry Redknapp appeared on screen, to deliver a moving eulogy to outgoing leader Iain Duncan Smith. So, how long has Harry been juggling these two high-profile jobs? And is it league regulations which require him to use the assumed name “Oliver Letwin” in his political life? Perhaps your readers can shed some light on this.
Andy Sinkfield, Portslade
As the editorial in WSC 202 points out, there is indeed a shortage of successful English club managers ready to step in and lead the national team when Sven-Göran Eriksson finally gets bored. Not that that’s been a problem in the past (see Kevin “people’s choice” Keegan). You do, however, overlook the one man most likely to succeed Sven, a Machiavellian figure currently manoeuvring himself sideways towards the manager’s desk two doors down at Lancaster Gate and so dark a horse that few will see him coming before he’s already there, giving his first press conference about Michael Owen’s hamstrings. Step forward Trevor Brooking, next England manager. He’s English, loved by the blazered hierarchy and as media friendly as they come. Not only that, he’s already on the payroll, he knows players such as Lampard, Cole, Ferdinand and Defoe from his West Ham days, and judging from his minor heart palpitations on the touchline during last season’s relegation, he might even give us a few laughs. Just so long as he doesn’t bring Lawrenson, Hansen, Ray Stubbs or – God forbid – Garth Crooks with him.
Martin Book, via email
I picked up a (colleague’s)copy of the Daily Mail on November 18 and thought I’d compare the attitudes of the England Rugby players during the World Cup to their football counterparts following the Rio Ferdinand and Alan Smith “incidents”. However, it soon became clear that it was yet another swipe at Sven-Göran Eriksson and particularly the fact that the Football Association dared appoint a foreigner to the post of England manager, despite there being no English alternatives at the time (Editorial, WSC 202). After implying that David Beckham must be running the England team and that Sven “is the captain’s puppet”, Jeff Powell got into his element by stating that “Eriksson does not understand... that our national teams are the symbols of England’s pride and, as such, they are expected to set the highest example.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure countries such as Italy and Brazil (and shock, horror, maybe even Sweden) have been proud of their teams a few times in the past, too. The best bit, though, was when he asserted that: “Nor does he (Sven) understand that while other countries take decisions of convenience – of which he is so natural a creature – decent Englishmen and women prefer to hold themselves to a higher standard.” It was at this point that realisation dawned: the article was, once again, sour grapes because Powell’s friend, that “decent Englishman” who holds himself “to a higher standard”, a certain Mr Venables, didn’t get the England job. Perhaps Powell has forgotten why the FA previously parted company with TV – I’m sure Spurs or Portsmouth fans, among others, would be very willing to remind him.
Mike Kaine, Stafford
Like millions of others I sat down to watch the Euro 2004 draw. Like thousands of them, I’d bought tickets via the UEFA website already. I figured I’d be happy with whatever fixtures came up, but delighted if an England game or two was thrown in. So when B2 v B4 turned into England v Croatia, I was well pleased. That was at 12.00. Two hours later, I’d got a ticket for Switzerland v France. Apart from the fact that shifting quality fixtures at random is a huge disincentive to any future applications (in 2000 I had no comeback at all when I ended up with Slovenia v Norway, but accepted it as the luck of the draw), I’d like to ask who’s the Einstein behind the specific decision. Because in case anybody’s missed it, England v Croatia will now take place in Lisbon 48 hours before Germany v Czech Republic takes place in, er, Lisbon. It’s strange that sprawling Lisbon is suddenly more secure than Coimbra, a city a fraction of the size, even more so when “insecure” Coimbra is still allowed to stage England-Switzerland. In other words, was it really security issues that forced UEFA to move the Croatia game? Or did they see two games taking place simultaneously, decide which one had the best chance of shifting an extra million quidsworth of tickets, and simply swap them round? I think somebody (FIFA?) should ensure that for future tournaments, UEFA throws out any bids from countries who cannot guarantee that all their venues are capable of staging fixtures between whichever pair of teams comes out of the hat. In the meantime, might I suggest that if a repeat of Charleroi 2000 does happen, UEFA’s tinkering with the draw makes them 100 per cent responsible. And to paraphrase a certain ex-England manager, I’d love to see them try and throw England out of the competition then.
Steve Ducker, via email
In 1966 Kenneth Wolstenholme uttered the famous, “Some people are on the pitch...” lines and you knew absolutely that it was spontaneous. At the 1974 Cup Final David Coleman said, “Keegan two, Heighway one, Liverpool three, Newcastle none,” and it seemed fairly obvious from the way his intonation changed that he only realised the mildly comic potential of the line half way through. Fast forward to Highbury, 2003. Jonathan Pearce has to wait until the 89th minute before Ashley Cole’s goal gives him the opportunity to shout: “Remember, remember the 5th of November, Gunner power, reason and plot.” I’m not sure which is worse, that he obviously prepared this toe-curlingly awful line or the fact that it doesn’t actually make any sense.
Tim Manns via email
Can anyone tell me why, whenever Man Utd get a goal, Gary Neville is always the first person to congratulate the scorer? Does he hang around the 18-yard box for 90 minutes waiting to pounce as soon as someone with infinitely more talent manages to pop one in the onion bag? I defy anyone to name a single Man Utd goal during the past ten years which has not resulted in an open-mouthed Gary Neville racing up and hugging the scorer, yelling a bit and showing off that stupid faux-moustache. I demand an answer.
Dave Sanders, via email
I know that Leeds United fans have been pinning their hopes on a rescue package being put together by a sheikh from Bahrain, but they should be wary. The gentleman seems sincere, but Elland Road regulars might remember that several business people, not least Sophie Countess of Wessex in her day job as a PR person, have been taken in by tabloid reporters posing as sheikhs. They arrange business meetings in posh London hotels, cook up a story about the millions they’re prepared to spend on some mad scheme, secretly record their conversation and then expose their gullible contacts in the News of the World. Leeds chief executive Trevor Birch must take care to establish the credentials of the club’s allegedly lifelong fans in the Gulf States. He should ask for DNA samples at least and perhaps a urine test. It could even be a scam by that “prankster” Man Utd fan who’s blagged his way into major sports events dressed as a competitor. Imagine the mocking headlines, Trevor, and think on.
Tony Clement, Altrincham
Much has been made of the fact that “football could learn a lot from the Rugby World Cup”. Chiefly, respect for referee’s has been rightly cited. However I was wondering if the unity of the oft-quoted “northern hemisphere” could be transferred to football. Personally, I wasn’t aware that the “northern hemisphere” was an entity of which we were all collectively proud to be part, but imagine the enjoyment that it could bring to smaller European teams such as my own beloved Scotland. No longer would we need to stare on from the outside in disillusionment at the latter stages of major tournaments: France 98, Italia 90, Spain 82 were magnificent triumphs for the northern hemisphere. And just think of Euro 2004 – everyone’s a winner! What next – a special bond between countries that share the same latitude?
Keith Mowat, via email
From WSC 203 January 2004. What was happening this month