Re Ged Naughton’s query (Letters, WSC 197) as to why the grass was always darker green during the cup final on ITV, the answer is simple: the grass is always greener on the other side.
Andy Hargreaves, Southampton
Call it coincidence or call it synchronicity, but on the basis of the letter from Brian Mettrick (WSC 196) the football gods were obviously having a laugh on January 11, 1961. Although we have never met, myself and Mr Mettrick are clearly bound together in misery and frustration for what will undoubtedly feel like eternity. For on that very day, as he was experiencing the dubious thrill of watching professional football for the first time I was otherwise engaged, being born. Some ten years later I too fell into the clutches of football, also at a midweek cup tie involving my home town club, Derby County, who came from behind to beat Millwall in the days when the League Cup didn’t need a sponsor. As with Mr Mettrick I thought it would always be like this and while I have long since realised that this is not the case I have never been able to overcome my addiction, despite the best efforts of Messrs Docherty, Maxwell, Gregory and Ravanelli, among others. Like Mr Mettrick, I have often wondered why I keep going, especially during the season just ended, but today I sent a cheque to renew my season ticket. Perhaps its because I can still remember a wet night in Derby over 30 years ago, when the Baseball Ground was packed to its even-then crumbling rafters, Brian Clough was the messiah and a young and injury free Roy McFarland was simply magnificent. Please help me someone. Help me to forget.
David J Watts, via email
In response to the question posed by Mr Huw Williams (WSC 197), regarding “lettered” floodlights, Kettering Town’s Rockingham Road stadium is now the only place I know of that still bears witness to such a phenomenon. (Although I would gladly stand to be corrected.) Installed in the early 1970s to accommodate colour TV and in preparation for our eventual elevation into the Football League, atop of ageing pylons four glorious Ks can be seen for miles around, illuminating the Northamptonshire skyline during the winter months. Although, during times of financial difficulties, of which there have been many since, they have taken on a more hieroglyphical appearance, they are still a sight to behold from any distance. Talk of a new ground within the borough continues and I fear that should the club move these beacons of recognition will be extinguished forever. What a pity we have never quite had the successful club that our wondrous floodlights deserve.
John Cecil, via email
Richard Gowen is quite right to suggest (WSC 197) that having a go at Cardiff City is rather a conditioned reflex for Swansea City fans, and while we’re on the subject I should ask for several thousand previous offences to be taken into consideration. Not guilty, though, on this occasion. I am sure, much as I might wish it otherwise, that John Charles would pass through the streets of Swansea (or anywhere else in Wales) as unremarked as he did on that occasion in Cardiff. The point I was making was one about Welsh indifference, and Cardiff is not yet coterminous with Wales, whatever Sam Hammam may be trying to make us think (oops, sorry, old habits...).
Huw Richards, via email
The article by Roger Titford focusing on the Conference reads like someone trying to play devil’s advocate just for the hell of it but not really having the arguments to make the whole thing work. The attempt to accuse non-League clubs of being less stable than League ones just doesn’t stand up, given the perilous state of so many Second and Third Division team’s finances and the number of clubs who have gone into administration in recent seasons, or are considering it. The Conference is at least trying to deal with the financial issues as a collective body by instigating controls on expenditure based on turnover rather than the suicidal “turning a blind eye” approach adopted by the FA. So what if the Conference has the same sponsor as the League and Sky seem to have more interest in showing Conference games than Division Three games? The Conference has shown great negotiating skills in marketing themselves over the last few seasons and if they can attract a decent TV contract, good luck to them! Perhaps, shock horror, the Third Division isn’t particularly an attractive proposition due to the number of underachieving clubs with little or no ambitions, League status or not. The argument over promotion and relegation seems particularly weak. Looking at the list of clubs who have gone out of the league (note Aldershot went bankrupt while in the Football League!) none of them, with exception of the odd FA Cup run, has set the world on fire in recent years. Treating League status as some sort of Holy Grail smells of unhealthy closed-shop protectionism and I would be interested to see how many lower division League clubs would currently pass the League’s entry criteria. Some of the promoted teams have struggled to rise up the League ladder, but I would suggest that this is as much a symptom of the financial barriers facing all clubs below Division One rather than a problem exclusive to ex-non-League clubs. Other clubs such as Rushden & Diamonds (a club representing “instability”, apparently) have done very well, winning promotion to Division Two in their second season. Overall I think the Conference could teach a lot to the Football League in how to address problems affecting all clubs and fans and also how to market your product effectively.
Chris Hunter, via email
Oh dear, David Wangerin (WSC 197) repeats the old chestnut about Graham Taylor picking Geoff Thomas to England as an example of his incompetence. The only problems with this is, Thomas deserved his place in the England team. I have yet to find anyone who has given me two players who were better than Thomas at that time (remember Gascoigne was injured). There are other errors of context, if not fact, in his article. First of all, he says no one would match Villa’s achievement in 1990 of finishing second in the top league two years after being promoted in the same position. Except that the following year, Palace finished third in the top division having been third in Division Two two years earlier, and the next after that Leeds were champions (as they were of the Second two years earlier).
Gerry Redican, via email
In response to Charlie Adamson’s letter in WSC 197, my local club, Alfreton Town, this season let a goal in while still celebrating scoring. The ref allowed play to restart because the Alfreton players were all in their own half (or was it off the pitch?) in a heap. As no Alfreton players were in the opposing half, the ref didn’t see any breach of the rules and allowed the opposition to kick-off. That’ll teach them.
Tom Durbin, via email
Charlie Adamson’s letter in WSC 197 about time-wasting goal celebrations got my anorak flapping. I have long thought that first-class football matches should be played to a fixed amount of ball-in-play time, like basketball. The clock stops at every interruption in play and a hooter sounds at the end. It would solve so much of the time-wasting and time-added-on stuff that we all moan about. The amount of time wouldn’t be 90 minutes, but it can’t be beyond modern science to work out how long the ball is in play in an average match, and round that up or down a bit. I can’t think of any disadvantages, so perhaps we’d just rather moan. Incidentally, in another letter in WSC 197, Ged Naughton claims that “in the olden days, when both BBC and ITV showed the Cup final, the grass was always darker green on ITV”. It may have been in his olden days, in my olden days the grass was grey on both channels. And has anyone ever met anyone who chose to watch ITV in those situations?
Paul Daniels, Heidelberg
Call me sensitive, but I think you used an unnecessary touch of sarcasm in your description of Heidar Helguson as a goal machine in Watford’s difficult Premiership season (WSC 197). To be fair to our young and thrusting Icelander, his six goals came in just 14 starts and defences breached included Liverpool (on his debut), Man Utd and those slack defenders from Highbury. Maybe not quite Van Nistelrooy league (he doesn’t take the penalties) but still would amount to a fine average of 16 over a full Premiership season.
David Nelson, via email
I enjoyed Ken Sproat’s article on Stoke calamitous 1984-85 season (WSC 197), albeit in a masochistic sort of way as I am a Potters fan. Most of the points made about our awful team were reasonable but Sammy McIlroy’s presence in midfield should not be singled out as a sign of our decrepitude – Sammy was a popular and successful player at the Victoria Ground for a few years. It was unfortunate that he had a bad team around him in what turned out to be his last season at the club. Ditto George Berry, who was a rock in central defence for the bulk of his career at Stoke. We were bad, I can’t deny it, but I am convinced that Sunderland last season were even worse – and unlike them at least we didn’t suffer from delusions of grandeur.
Steve Sharpe, Kidsgrove
Re Huw Williams’ letter about floodlights shaped in club’s letters. I seem to recall Vale Park having all four corners of the ground containing a V at the top of the pylons, but I always put it down to Vale’s tight arsed chairman not wanting to waste money on a full set of floodlights rather than an attempt to be fashionable. Talking of being fashionable, in the late Seventies Vale ran out to the sound of Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Fanfare for the Common Man way before the current trend. Can anyone beat this?
Geoff Shaw, via email
I can understand that changes to the regulations on tobacco sponsorship mean that Rothmans can no longer be associated with the football yearbook to which they lent their name for over 30 years. But what a pity that it is instead going to be sponsored by Sky Sports. As if they haven’t got their claws into football enough as it is. Rothmans was a link to football as it existed before the Premiership, a time that Sky seem reluctant to acknowledge. Perhaps we’ll see club records adjusted in the book to take into account only what they’ve done since 1992. Richard Keys might get his own column in which to state the screamingly obvious and we’ll be regaled with Rodney Marsh’s favourite football stories from the past year. One thing’s for sure – there will no longer be any editorial comment reflecting crticially on TV’s influence over football.
Tony Morgan, via email
I don’t suppose Florentino Pérez and his Bernebéu henchmen will ever admit it, but it seems obvious to me that the appointment of Carlos Queiroz is a mistake – probably brought about by an out of date Rothmans and an imperfect knowledge of the English game. When Real dispatched their agents to Manchester to capture Alex Ferguson’s famous right-hand man it’s clear they were really after Brian Kidd. Imagine the disappointment, then, when instead of down-to-earth Kiddo they get a bloke who says things like “Luis Figo has a psychological superiority over most players because his vision is so intelligent”.
Chris Front, Redcar
From WSC 198 August 2003. What was happening this month