THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
The letter from Joe Newman (WSC 195) claimed that only those managers who have sold their shares in the ProActive agency stand to financially benefit from transfers involving the players on the agency’s books: “You don’t make money from shares simply by holding on to them – the only way to benefit financially is by selling them.”
Sadly, it is this sort of view from a fan that concerns me about the level of ignorance of the financial state of football today. Clearly, if these managers have sold their shares in the business, they stand to make no further money from that business. But Joe is ignorant of the fact that shareholders also get paid dividends on their shareholdings. Surely exactly the point that the Football Confidential book was trying to get across?
Alfie Dunn-Lowes, via email

Dear WSC
Do you have access to an agony aunt? If so, please pass my problem on to her. On January 11, 1961, I went to my first professional match. I was 11. It was Huddersfield Town against Wolves, an FA Cup third-round replay which Town won 2-1. The previous season Wolves had won the cup. It was an evening kick-off, the first ever under floodlights at the old Leeds Road ground. The atmosphere has never been the same since. There were fans on the roof of the terrace side, the atmosphere was jubilant, the place was vibrant. My brother and I were taken by my dad and uncle. I was hooked and have been going ever since. In over 40 years there been about five decent seasons and probably no more than 20 good games. My misery has been compounded by appalling managers, some boardroom decisions that defied belief (we sacked Neil Warnock in the close season after he got us promoted) and heaven knows how many “strikers” who appeared to have no idea what a football was for. I am now a wreck. I don’t understand why I keep going but I don’t know how much more I can take. We’re in administration now and I find myself hoping against hope we survive. My questions for the agony aunt: Would I still be going to games if my first one had been a meaningless fixture against Walsall on a cold wet Saturday afternoon? Am I normal? Where will Town play in the afterlife – heaven or hell?
Brian Mettrick, Huddersfield

Dear WSC
Apart from at Middlesbrough, where the challenge was only to slightly improve on the results produced by Bungalow Bryan, each of Terry Venables’ last half do­zen or so managerial jobs have ended badly. Yet with Tottenham, England, Australia, Portsmouth, Crystal Palace and now Leeds, Venables has still walked away with a cheque for more money than most of us earn in a lifetime despite failing to produce the results expected. So what of the future? Of course Leeds will be OK. They now have a half-decent manager who will allow the team to play to its strengths and despite the sales – most of which were after Venables had already overseen a death-defying plunge down the table – there remain enough good players to once more begin challenging for honours. As for the old phoney himself, I feel confident it won’t be long before his media mates find him another comfy chair in the studio where he can point out everybody else’s mistakes for the benefit of us poor dumb suckers. Or is there still somebody out there who can be taken in by the man’s real talent, that is his brilliance as a self-publicist?
Mick Blakeman, Wolverhampton

Dear WSC
I was interested to read Ian Plenderle­­ith’s article Net Pains on the status of Premium TV (WSC 195).As a subscriber to the Millwall version of the online service, I do find the material patchy but overall worth it. This is not only because I have broadband and can enjoy the highlights without too much squinting but also because I live about 50 miles from the New Den, so it keeps me in the loop of latest developments at my club. However, the reason I write is because of his line “...not only are there fewer Football League fans but they can be far more resistant to change, especially if they have to pay for it”. What!? So, as a Millwall supporter I must sit in my front room with Seventies decor, watching The Big Match in black and white on an old VHS while my Southampton-supporting equivalent interacts like mad with live coverage on his digital home cinema system? And goodness knows what amazing gadgets fans of the “Champions League Clubs” must have...
Lance Bellers, via email

Dear WSC
Keith Watson (Letters, WSC 195) is not alone. All Des had to do is utter the dreaded words “your commentator is Peter Drury” and I’m reaching frantically for the mute button. As an alternative, for the Real Madrid v Man Utd game I foolishly tuned into Five Live, only to find the increasingly arrogant Alan Green almost impossible to bear. At one point he ridiculed referee And­ers Frisk for always wanting to be “the centre of attention”. Mr Green seems blissfully aware that he is the Anders Frisk of radio broadcasting. After 22 excruciating minutes he vacated his seat, and we were at last allowed the pleasure of an informed, intelligent and entertaining commentator – take a bow, Mike Ingham.
Robin Pearson, Isleworth

Dear WSC
Whatever the rights or wrongs of the current conflict, I was deeply concerned to hear reports that the Americans plan to move on next to Serie A. What have the Italians done to deserve that? And whatever next? The Nationwide Conference?
Tim Manns, via email

Dear WSC
Barney Ronay was mistaken in his assertion that the late, great “Sir” Bobby Moore served his managerial apprenticeship under Harry Redknapp at Isthmian League Oxford City (Can You Manage? WSC 195). In fact the roles were reversed and it was Moore who gave Redknapp his first taste of management in England: ha­v­ing taken the manager’s position at City in December 1979, Moore gave Redknapp scouting duties in February 1980 and, following relegation to the Isthmian First Division at the end of that season, he then appointed him as his as­sistant for the start of the 1980-81 campaign. Redknapp’s first experience of sole management responsibility came when he took charge of the City team for two games in November 1980 when Moore was unavailable due to a long-standing “business” commitment overseas (in St Lucia). It was during his scouting period that we saw the first signs of the now leg­endary Redknapp wheeling and dealing. Although more and more of the City team were from the London area, the local players and officials (I was programme editor at the time) still travelled by coach and collected the others along the route – no matter which tube station or car park we met Harry at, he always had a huge box of the latest flares, shirts or lea­ther coats for sale at knock-down prices. Moore was altogether more stylish. Before he (and the local businessman who was funding it all) took over, the City players and staff never stopped for a pre-match meal, save for the rare long-distance journey in the cup when they might visit a Little Chef, but for Bobby’s first Saturday away game in the New Year of 1980, at Barking, they lunched at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane. I had two poached eggs on toast and a glass of orange juice which, at £6.50, was approximately 25 per cent of my weekly take-home pay at that time. Sadly for Moore, and all the City faithful, his team barely made the top half in his only full season and he disappeared into football obscurity. At Southend.
David Underwood, Basingstoke

Dear WSC

Re: concocting a song for Barnet’s Bail Mas Lette Jellow (Letters, WSC 195). Surely all they need to do is replace “They call it mellow yellow” with the chap’s name?
Gwilym Boore, Cardiff

Dear WSC
Contrary to Mike Woitalla’s Letter from the USA (WSC 195) outlining the desperate need for the MLS to expand, in spite of a staggering £250 million debt, limited future funds for players, and the search “for more rich men” and investors, what the MLS needs to do is disband. Under the guidance of the United States Soccer Federation, the creation of a two- or three-division professional league based on the regional leagues already in place is essential. In conjunction with instituting league relegations and promotions, and the selling of top players to foreign leagues, this will produce a stronger future for the US men’s national team. Watching players such as Reyna, Frie­del and Keller succeed in the Premiership should pave the way for American players overseas. These three have spent most of their careers in Europe, working their way through to the top over time. The six key players highlighted by Mr Woitalla are all young and will benefit on the wider world stage through the stronger competition and stiffer challenges that Europe would surely bring. Selling its best players would not only provide income for the league (in whatever future form), it would clear some of the top salaries so less may be spent in the long run and create a larger talent pool with more competition for future US national teams. This is where the Landon Donovans of the world do the US national team a disservice. By not returning to Bayer Leverkusen after the World Cup, he denied himself the opportunity to compete at a level possibly greater than the World Cup, the Champions League, and took up a playing place (at a greater salary) of another player or two coming through. Also, what’s to say his presence in the Lever­kusen side would not have prevented them from possible relegation this year? Having lived in Manchester for the past two and a half years, I have seen first hand count­less lower-division clubs fruit­lessly looking for the one sugar daddy to come along with money to throw down the big hole that may only get them to the Second Division. Watching Kevin Keegan spend £150m during his managerial stints shows that unlimited funds won’t guarantee results. Losing £25m a year on ten teams does not provide a stable base for fan support nor development funds for future players. Adding more teams will not add more bottoms on the seats or better players. It will lead to a quicker NASL-like death.
Don Rett, via email

Dear WSC
Keith Watson (Letters, WSC 195) wondered whether he is the only person who wants to be physically sick every time he hears Peter Drury’s voice. He is not. And should I return in the next life as a fer­ret, I intend to run up one of Mr Drury’s trouser legs.
David Wangerin, via email

Dear WSC
I must take issue with Alistair Moffat’s intimation (Letters, WSC 195) that the new manager of Sunderland was misusing “mathematically” in their now post­humous attempt to stay-up. I have studied the figures in some detail and until their recent demise at Birmingham, their median and mean points per game suggested that, given a standard deviation of 0.3, their chances of avoiding the drop was of a negative factor in probability theory.  I am sure that Mr McCarthy therefore has used the correct terminology, no doubt qualified by the likes of Kevin “Calculus” Kilbane.
Mike Styles, via email

Dear WSC
My apologies to Jim Price (Letters, WSC 194) While his Arce/Hole story re: Villa in the late Sixties clearly deserves to be true, it never quite came about. Oscar Arce was a phenomenally skil­­­ful player at keepy-uppy but that was all. He never made an appearance in the first team, although he turned out a few times for the reserves. He did, however, possess one hell of a temper when tackled from behind, and was sent off in a pre-season friendly against Bedford Town. Barrie Hole, on the other hand, was a distinguished midfield player who won many caps for Wales while at Cardiff, Black­burn, Villa and Swansea. Consider the humour potential for the following season when teenager Jimmy Brown turned in several displays in the Villa midfield.
Dave Collett, via email

Dear WSC
It has recently come to my attention that the rapidly ageing Spurs striker and captain Teddy Sheringham seems to possess, after Terry Venables, the most amount of friends in the football media. How many times have I heard, as another hapless Teddy performance draws to a close, the repetitive line uttered on the TV or radio that “it just hasn’t been his day today”? For crying out loud, Brian Marwood, Alan Smith and company, Teddy’s “day” is long gone. His “consistency” has indeed been astounding – quite how he con­tinues to produce complete and utter garbage week in week out does in fact beggar belief. Wake up, Marwood and co, and rather than laud the next abysmal Sheringham performance, instead marvel at the wonder of watching a captain of Tottenham Hot­spur attempting to play the game that went out of fashion in children’s playgrounds a long time ago – “Stuck in the Mud”.
Jack Prevezer, London NW11

Dear WSC
I do like it when overseas players settle over here after their playing careers have finished, especially when they end up in non-football careers. Take Boncho Genchev, formerly an occasional marskman for Ipswich and Luton and a member of Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup finals squad. He is now running a cafe in west London, as I discovered by accident just recently. He still wears a sports shirt and tracksuit bottoms while serving behind the counter, which is a nice touch. It may have been an impostor, I suppose, but would anyone really go to the trouble? Are there are other former international stars living quietly in an obscure corner of Albion?
Roy Kaye, Uxbridge

From WSC 196 June 2003. What was happening this month

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