THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Your Blackpool “expert” in the pre-season preview (WSC 199) doesn’t have much chance of getting this season correct if he can’t work out what happened last season. Blackpool didn’t lose home and away to Cardiff – we won 1-0 at Bloomfield Road. And my experiences of Cardiff fans’ hospitality were somewhat different from your expert’s. After the home game we passed a load of Car­diff fans who applauded us on our fine display and victory. As for the away game, a Cardiff supporting friend drove me all the way from our midlands office and back and plied me with drinks before and after the match in a friendly atmosphere at the local rugby club. I know hospitality may have been different if I’d been a fan from some other club with more of a reputation for confrontation, but don’t always believe the stereotyping.
Chris Lowry, Solihull

Dear WSC
Recently in the early hours of the morning I stumbled across a repeat of an old Today with Des and Mel on which one of the guests was our own Ron Atkinson. BFR came on and did his usual act, even taking the time to explain some of his more well-known assaults on the English language, eg “lollipop”. However, Ron also saw fit to recount a story of how a player of his once took a knock on the head and lost his memory, to which Ron claimed to have quip­ped “great, tell him he’s Pelé”. An amusing anecdote as we would expect, but one heard often before. And in the standard version the quick-witted manager is always recently retired Partick Thistle chief John Lambie. Is this what Ron has come to, stealing other people’s jokes? Or has senility finally caught up with him?
John Morrow, Belfast

Dear WSC
I cannot pretend to know very much about Richard Carpenter’s tackle on Chris Casper in 1998, but as a PI lawyer who predominantly works for defendants on the instructions of their insurers, I feel I am qualified to make two (possibly pedantic) observations concerning Eddie Renwick’s letter in WSC 199. Firstly, if the tackle really was deliberate, as suggested in the concluding paragraph, then Casper might be lucky to have even secured from the insurers an agreement to pay something. Insurance policies only cover acts of carelessness (ie negligence), not deliberate acts (ie “assaults”). If the tackle was truly an assault then Casper would have to get his compo out of Carpenter personally, not his employer or their insurers. Obviously, this is not the sort of point which I would take.Secondly, I doubt that proceedings were actually due to start against the insurers. They were not the ones who tackled Casper, so he can have no cause of action against them. Doubtless Mr Renwick meant to refer to prospective proceedings against Cardiff (which would have been handled by solicitors appointed by their insurers).Here endeth the first lesson. And, no, I don’t act for Cardiff’s insurers.
Tim Wain, via email

Dear WSC
How come Wycombe Wanderers are the only one of the 92 English league clubs not to appear on the footballing map of the world (WSC 199)? Is cartoonist Dave Robinson a secret Colchester United fan, or are Wycombe – as we are occasionally reminded by opposition supporters – still “non-League and you know you are”? (Oxford fans need not answer this question until they’ve dragged themselves up to our dizzy heights.)
Ronan Munro, via email

Dear WSC
Martin Wilson (Letters, WSC 199) is right about Socrates’ languid penalty-taking. And if he’s in need of an example of this approach failing, then he should look no further than the penalty shoot-out between France and Brazil in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final.I watched the game in a packed pub in Stockwell, being one of the few supporters of the French that day. It was crunch time in the shoot-out. With the fans in the ground going spacker, Soc­rates calmly placed the ball on the spot, and turned that fine gaze of his to the goal.By jiminy, he looked every part the footballing legend – half midfielder, half philosopher, his shoulders were square, his back was straight. There was no need for a run-up, he just swept his boot through the ball... and ballooned it hopelessly over the bar. How I laughed.
Chris Denne, via email

Dear WSC

In WSC 199 (The Strange Case of Jay Both­royd) mention is made of Perugia contemplating fielding a female player in Serie A. I can just imagine all the anti-women-as-equals objectors spluttering with rage at the prospect of another all-male bastion being breached.It’s always struck me as odd that half the world’s population is written off when it comes to the search for talented players. I always considered football superior to other games because of its reliance on using thought and skill rather than sheer brute strength. Any advantage of size and strength that the average male would have would be far outweighed by talent. We’ve all seen enough football to know that a talented smaller player can easily be more important to a team than the no-brain, six foot-plus, built like a brick outhouse, no-talent carthorses that too often pass for defenders.Also, football being a team game, the emphasis is on an individual contributing to a collective effort. We’ve all seen weaknesses in individual players compensated for by team play. I can’t see any reason, given the same training and fitness regime at any football club, why some women can’t be equally as good at being professional footballers as some men. Well I can, but they’re the same cultural and political barriers that have been used to try to prevent women gaining anything like equality. One of the problems could be the football authorities. I know that the Football Association ban mixed sex teams over the age of ten or 11. However, I don’t know if FAs in other countries or FIFA have had such misogynist deadheads running the game as we’ve been lumbered with in this country. I used to work in an all-male workplace. There was no reason why women couldn’t do the exact same job; it was just politics and attitudes that kept things that way.
Colin Yates, via email

Dear WSC
So a young player is tragically killed on the eve of the football season. Watford Football Club have enough class to immediately postpone their Division One fixture even though Jimmy Davis is not technically their player. The player’s full-time employer, Manchester United, on the other hand, would appear to have neither the class, the will, the time or the in­clination to even attempt to call their own game off. Of course, who cares about an irrelevant Division One fixture when there’s the memorable annual showpiece that is the unsold out Community (interesting definition of community in the circumstances, perhaps) Shield to consider.In the circumstances (and also considering FIFA’s recent decision to ignore Marc-Vivien Foé’s inconvenient death by carrying on with another meaningless fixture) one can only muse on how tragic an event would have to be to get a game called off by Manchester United. Roy Keane’s dog hit by a milkfloat? One of Fergie’s horses goes lame? This letter is not meant to be at all disrespectful and my sincerest thoughts are with Jimmy Davis’s family and friends. I just think that his untimely death has highlighted once again the level to which football has descended... not that anyone has noticed.
Phil Greaves, via email

Dear WSC
Tony Morgan (Letters, WSC 198) worries about the attitude of the new Sky Sports Yearbook to club achievements before the Premiership began in 1992, but Rothmans began the process some seasons ago.I turn to the Blackburn Rovers page in my 2002-03 Rothmans – though many of the club pages would yield similar results. The “Honours” panel tells me that Rovers won the Premiership in 1994-95 and were runners-up a year earlier. On the next line down, it says they were Football League Division One champions in 1911-12 and 1913-14. It then tells me they were runners-up in Football League Division One in 2000-01. All of this is true and accurate according to the names given to the divisions at the time – but there’s a space between their Premiership achievements and their Football League efforts, which refer to titles won at the same level of the game, and no space between the League victories before the First World War and the heroic battle for second place nearly 90 years later – despite the fact that the wonders of 2000-01 happened a division lower.In other words, Rothmans have presented winning the Premiership as a greater accomplishment than winning Division One was prior to 1992, whereas post-1992 Division One is regarded in the same way as pre-1992 Division One. All of which backs up Sky’s revisionist view of history – so exactly when did they first become involved in the Rothmans record pages? I think we should be told.
Roy Chuter, Brighton

Dear WSC
I felt sorry for Al Needham and his futile attempts to see the 1978 World Cup final (WSC 199). When I was little we didn’t have a TV at all until that year, but in a move of supreme good fortune (for me) my parents deemed the 1978 World Cup as a whole such a momentous event that they actually went out and bought a telly for the first time ever. Despite having seen and forgotten literally thousands of goals in the 25 years since, I can still clearly picture Bernard Lacombe’s storming header in the first minute of France v Italy, beamed from Argentina to our sparkling new black-and-white portable. It was a great goal, Al, in case you missed it.
Tristan Browning, Reading

Dear WSC
In your guide to the new season (WSC 199), your Forest correspondent Al Needham waxed lyrical about the catchphrase “Yarwood, follow that”, which was coined by Brian Clough on the seminal record We’ve Got the Whole World in Our Hands. The barnstorming collaboration with Paper Lace was by no means Clough’s only foray into the world of pop. To my know­ledge, there exist at least a further three songs featuring the great man’s sublime vocals.Of these, one in particular is worthy of mention – namely You Can’t Win ’Em All, a collaboration between Clough and some bloke called JJ Barrie. Released as a single in the early 1980s, this song – and its B-side, It’s Only A Game – was designed to discourage the hooliganism that dominated football during that era. And to be fair, you suspect that even the most hardened of thugs would have been reduced to a sobbing baby upon hearing the following sublime lines “rapped” in that distinctive Yorkshire burr: “When the team you support goes and loses a game, don’t go round looking for someone to blame. It’s the toss of a coin, it’s the luck of the draw. Football’s a game – IT’S NOT MAKING WAR!”My theory is that Clough was simply ahead of his time when it came to music, just as we was when it came to football management. In fact, I’d go so far as saying that, had he been born 20 years later, he’d probably be blinging his way across the tabloids right at this very moment, getting involved in dissing matches with the likes of P Diddy.Indeed, Eminem has subsequently gone on to prove just how marketable a white rap artist can be. As “if onlys” go, Clough must regret missing out on ruling the charts as much as he probably regrets the fact that, instead of Stan Collymore, he signed Robert bloody Rosario as his last throw of the dice in the relegation battle that soured his final season at the City Ground...
Rich Fisher, via email

Dear WSC
Is it just me, or does anyone else scratch their head at the pointlessness of some fluky post-hanger racing to retrieve the match ball after knocking in a hat-trick? A shot of the Owens and Fowlers of this world stuffing something up their jersey at the final whistle is a favourite among directors of televised games, despite the fact that footage of the match itself lends weight to the possibility that the ball in question played no part in any of the three goals.I’m no mathematician, but consider the (semi-solid) facts: in minted Premiership and Champions League games especially, the number of ballboys dotted along various parts of the touchline suggests that as many as eight different balls are called into use in any given match. That would make the chance of a single ball rippling the net three times somewhere in the region of 512 to 1 – mind you, Owen and fellow flutter-happy pros like Eidur Gudjohnsen probably like those odds...How to guarantee any single ball is the hat-trick ball, I hear you ask? Easy. Arm the fourth official with an indelible magic marker with which he can put a cross on the ball each time it passes between the posts. Not only would it assure the player concerned he was taking home something worthwhile, it would be an invaluable aid towards authentication when he heads down the auction house in later years after receiving a hefty tax bill.
Terry Staunton, Derby­

From WSC 200 October 2003. What was happening this month

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