THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
How’s this for a delicious sense of irony? Brentford v Colchester United, Tuesday February 18, 2003. 1) On a freezing cold night when almost everyone wishes they’d stayed indoors, the Bees put in a dreadful first-half display and are roundly booed off the pitch. 2) In an effort to pla­cate the home fans, Brentford decide to play the D:Ream hit Things Can Only Get Better over the tannoy. 3) Immediately the song finishes, the club announ­ces the match has been abandoned at half time. If only the Bees’ strike force was as good as their comic timing.
Eddie Hutchinson, Ashford

Dear WSC
Here’s another complaint from an an­orak. In WSC 193 your correspondent Mark Winter spoils an otherwise interesting article on Neville Southall by claim­­ing that he saw a pied wagtail “hopping up and down the touchline”. Perhaps this wagtail had been in the boozer or at the prohibited substances. For, as every reader surely knows, wagtails do not hop. Blackbirds hop. Wagtails walk. Since this error crops up in the second sentence it casts massive doubt on the rest of the article, don’t you think?
Eric Brown, via email

Dear WSC
Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno (WSC 193) need not worry about his career when his current ban expires. For there is a place in football where his skills and knowledge would be fully appreciated; a place where he would be hailed as a king to all men; a place where he could even bring his precocious nine-year-old daugh­ter to run the line. It’s called the Nationwide Second Division.
Richard Hedge, via email

Dear WSC
Re: the X-rated A to Z (WSC 193). In the 1960s Aston Villa imported a South Amer­­ican player by the name of Oscar Arce. He was good at ball tricks, but didn’t make the team very often after an initial blaze of self publicity. To the delight, and still happy memory, of the blue side of the city he was teamed in the central midfield with Barry Hole.
Jim Price, Birmingham

Dear WSC
In a more innocent age, if something “gave you the willies” then it simply scared you. Was John Murray thinking of this say­ing during Radio Five’s commentary on Birmingham v Man Utd or was something altogether more sinister going in St Andrews when he observed that the visitors “really put the willies up Birmingham”? If it was not a case of mixed metaphors then no wonder Manchester won, but surely there is a law against that sort of tactic?
N Cooper, Cardiff

Dear WSC
Re: Promotional Gimmick (WSC 193). I am not suggesting for a minute that the 10,000 all-seat stadium stipulation is fair, but since when has football, especially the Scottish variety, been fair? If we inspect the situation a little closer, we can see that there’s been a little mischief (and myth) making by the friends of Falkirk and their mates in the media. First, the piddlingly pedantic points out of the way. Crawford Baptie has not been with Fal­kirk for 12 years – a Bairns stalwart, sure, but he has turned out for Hamilton Accies and Clyde, at least, during that time. Contrary to public opinion, Falkirk were not denied promotion three times, but were denied the chance of promotion three times via a play-off system then in operation. A nice distinction but an im­portant one. Would they even have been in contention had they concentrated their finances on a stadium-building project, instead of players? While not wishing to take anything away from Fal­kirk’s great win against Hearts, Scotland’s potentially third big­gest team have been on the end of a few drubbings this season, most notably a 6-1 whupping by bottom-feeders Motherwell. Also, going back a decade or so, maybe if teams like Fal­kirk (and to our eternal shame, my club, Clyde) hadn’t voted for four leagues of ten we wouldn’t be in this mess. It’s interesting, if doubly ironic, that the late, great name of Airdrieonians has been invoked in the case for Falkirk’s defence. If Airdrie Utd hadn’t bought out the faltering Clydebank, then Falkirk would have been relegated from the First last season and would at least be in a division they can get promoted from, and we wouldn’t have to listen to all the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Schadenfreude, I know, but it’s what Scottish football thrives on. Falkirk also benefited from the managerial talents, albeit brief­ly, of Ian McCall and some decent players as part of the Airdrie fallout. So come on Bairns, grow up and dry your eyes – you’ve won the First and promotion before and no doubt will do it again. Just get your own house in order and put the spin doctors away.
Blair Liddell, Glasgow

Dear WSC
Forget George Best (Corners, WSC 193). On New Year’s Day 1991, a cold and hungover Burnden Park witnessed Paul Com­stive bag his only two League goals of the season for Bolton – both direct from corners in our 4-1 spanking of Bourne­mouth. Paul’s gymnastic accomplishments that day may not have done us much good in the long run (we finished 13th in Division Three that season, five places below Bournemouth) but at the time – well, I nearly dropped my Bovril.
Adam Lukin, Manchester

Dear WSC
As an anorak in the Tristan Browning mould, I also can’t resist adding to the correspondence regarding the famous Cruyff turn in 1974. Tristan is right when he states (Letters, WSC 193) that the turn did not happen against East Germany. But it wasn’t against Sweden either. The unfortunate recipients, as the Dutch announced themselves as genuine contenders, were Bulgaria, who suffered a 4-1 tonking en route to their then-familiar position at the foot of a World Cup finals group.
Alun Thomas, via email

Dear WSC
Although I’m a ardent Liverpool fan, I’m a great admirer of the skill and flair of Arsenal, and after watching them several times this season, I can’t help wonder­ing what the shiny, gunky patch on some of the players’ shirts. Are they just short of a tissue, or is there another reason for this?
Joe Gallagher, via email

Dear WSC

“Hello, how can I help?” “Hi, I’m the chairman of a moderately ambitious Nationwide League club.” “You’ll be wanting a new stadium then?” “Yes please.” ‘”What colour would you like?” “Club colours please.” “OK. Seat patterns?” “Umm... initials on one stand, nickname on another, and an animal which looks like a crisp, please.” “That’s no problem. What accent would you like for your stadium announcer?” “Oh, a completely annoying one, please.” “Would you like to go large?” “What do I get for that, then?” “Sticky-out bits, and adjoining corners.” “Yes, I’ll take that.” “Is that all?” “Umm... could I have unhelpful stewards as well please, and a baffling entrance system?” “Yes, certainly.” “Thanks.” “That’ll be £30 million then.” “OK.” “Bye.” “Bye.” And so it goes...
Ellis Jones, Bristol

Dear WSC
Looking at my Observer, I notice that Sky are proudly advertising the Liverpool v Leeds fifth round FA Cup tie to be played on February 16. I know history only started in 1992, but I didn’t realise that this also meant wins for clubs such as, say, Crystal Palace, didn’t count. Are Gerald Sinstadt and Alan Brazil (Letters, WSC 192 and 193) branching out? Or can I safely assume that Sky’s copywriting team are free of the taint of the professional football journalist?
Chris Bishop, via email

Dear WSC
With regard to Ronnie Moore’s “it’s 2003 not 1953, TV replays have to come” comment (WSC 193). Is this the same Ronnie Moore who, like the match officials, “didn’t see” Bob Taylor’s shot cross the line late on in the Millers’ 43rd fixture of last season? Subsequent TV replays conclusively show the ball over the line in a game that Rotherham and West Brom shared 1-1. A fortnight later Rotherham avoided the drop on goal difference. Perhaps in this crusade for fair play for all Ronnie would like his side to fulfil the remainder of the subsequently relegated Crewe Alexandra’s fixtures this season? Somehow I doubt it.
Darren Fellows, West Bromwich

Dear WSC
I fully understand that WSC writers have a duty to entertain as well as to inform. It is nevertheless important that the desire to provide witty copy does not get in the way of the truth. Davy Millar’s comments on Johnny Jameson (WSC 193) illustrate the problem. Millar claims that Jameson had “conveniently forgotten” to tell the Northern Ireland manager, Billy Bingham, that he would be unable to play on a Sunday if ask­ed to do so during the 1982 World Cup finals. In fact, Jameson had made this abundantly clear to his manager long before the squad set off for Spain. In any case, even if Bingham had been unware of Jameson’s attitude to Sunday football, he would almost certainly have been the only person with an interest in Northern Irish football at the time to be so blissfully ignorant. This leaves one to wonder why the manager, having failed to award Jameson a first international cap earlier in the competition, actually chose to create a situation out of which there could only be one outcome. The fact that Jameson remained uncapped thereafter suggests some kind of personality clash for which Jameson, an honest player and a thoroughly decent man, is unlikely to have been responsible. By the way, just to clear up another piece of misinformation – according to Millar, once Jameson reached the dead-ball line, “all bets were off”. Try telling that to Gary Blackledge, Gerry Mullan, Gary McCartney and all the other strikers over the years who scored a high percentage of their goals courtesy of Jameson’s crosses.
Alan Bairner, via email

Dear WSC
Davy Millar recalls Peter Rafferty coming on to loud cheers only to “empty” Trevor Francis within seconds (WSC 193). It was a real beauty – not only did Rafferty upend Francis with both feet and full sets of studs of both boots but he also connected with the back of his head with a fully clenched fist. So much for the gifted million-pound footballer from across the water...
Robin Hodge, Limavady

Dear WSC
Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments after the Beckham-boot-in-the-eye incident that what goes on in the dressing room is “sac­rosanct” seem to have met with mumbles of agreement from most ex-pros, pundits and hacks. The dressing room, it seems, is the equivalent of the confessional box or the psychiatrist’s office and all events that take place within its walls are treated as privileged and confidential – though presumably this can be waived, if by doing so the manager, coach or physio can prevent a serious crime occurring. Apart from anything else the situation opens up all kinds of dramatic possibilities. Look out for a Hollywood movie that features Robert De Niro as a devout football manager who hears one of his players confess to having been the second gunman on the JFK assassination, finds Lord Lucan happily soaping himself in the communal bath and discovers the lost Romanov Princess Anastasia enjoying a cup of tea and a hand of brag with the reserve goalkeeper, and then wrestles with his conscience over whe­ther to reveal what he knows to the rest of the world.
Bert Jones, Wapping

Dear WSC
Ryan Giggs’s glorious miss against Arsenal in the FA Cup prompts me to raise something which has been troubling me. Some players commit repeated acts of stupefying incompetence which go unpunished and sometimes even unremarked-on, yet they are quick to berate referees for the slightest error. How about a system where a player guilty of inept play is barred from criticising the referee for a period of time, variable according to the seriousness of the offence?
David Hood, Bewdley

Dear WSC
Duncan Nisbet’s letter (WSC 192) recounted the tale of Rodney Marsh showing comical dissent to Alf Ramsey. The only bit he didn’t include was “...and Rodney never played for England again”. This can be followed up with the tale of Ray Parlour on England duty. Glenn Hoddle had just introduced Eileen Drewery to the squad with a view to improving their spiritual focus. Having sat the players down in an arc of chairs, in turn she quietly asks them to visualise what they strive for and tell the rest of the room. Shearer and Co visualise lifting the World Cup, but Ray, with Eileen peering over his shoulder, asks for a short back ’n’ sides. The entire squad were in hysterics. Ray was never called up for Hoddle’s England again.
Rob Tona, via email

Dear WSC
Seeing your article on the pools panel (WSC 193) brought back some lovely mem­ories of one of the panel, the mercurial Tony Green. Although he only play­ed 39 games for Newcastle, he left an indelible mark on all who were lucky enough to see him play. Newcastle then as now were a team of entertainers with jinky Jimmy Smith, Supermac and Tony Green up there with the best of them. I was there when he suffered the injury which ultimately finished him, courtesy of a tackle by Crystal Pa­lace’s Mel Blyth. If Tony Green had suffered that injury now, I have no doubt that he would have recovered and become a global name with all the rewards that would have brought. Years later one of the few joys of watching Newcastle play in London was racing back to Kings Cross to catch the 6pm train back home. The team used to catch this train too, and we would regularly meet Tony in the buffet car. We were given one more chance to sing his name a few weeks ago when he was guest of honour at a home match. The pools panel is an integral part of our game – I am delighted that Tony Green is still a part of that.
Alistair Murray, Newcastle upon Tyne

Dear WSC
So when postponed fixtures are finally played, an original Pools Panel verdict is correct on just 40 per cent of occasions (WSC 193)? That’s outrageous! I run a predictions league in which participants forecast the results of 40 Premiership and Division One fixtures for the month ahead. At present, our 2002-03 league leader has correctly predicted 55 per cent of the fixtures to be forecast, while the league average for all 32 participants is 46 per cent. So who needs the ex-pros? If I was a pools player, I’m not sure I’d be happy that my chances of a life of leisure could be affected by Messrs Banks, Hunt and Green being less likely to predict results than trade magazine editor Mike Berry or car parts salesman Andy Smith. As for taking seven minutes to come to a conclusion for each fixture, give me a break! I’ve bashed out 40 fixtures in five minutes over a busy lunchtime, and I’m currently averaging 47 per cent. OK, so the panel might just have to predict a few more games than we do. And yes, they need to predict the half times as well. The point is that we don’t have huge banks of statistics on hand with which to make carefully weighed decisions – all we’re doing is backing hunches. Yet our disparate group of London office workers is doing better than seasoned predictions “professionals”! So here’s the deal: Get the league to “outsource” the necessary Pools Panel predictions to us. I’ve had a word with my mates, and we can guarantee to do it for half the current panel’s combined salaries and expenses. It’ll pay for all the stamps, and we could do with a couple of trophies.
Martin Read, via email

Dear WSC
Come on Cris Freddi, pull your socks up. How can you omit, in your X-Rated Footballers article in WSC 193, the Reading FC legend that was Wayne Wanklyn? His name brought great sniggers at school in the 1970s and later, during his days as a non-League manager, it elicited a classic among sport headlines, viz “Clean Sheet for Wanklyn’s Staines”.
Jon Wainwright, Chester

Dear WSC
Thought you might be interested in this little story. During the Sunderland game at Loftus Road on Saturday March 1, the result of this week’s “Fulham Flutter” was announced at half-time and, as is customary, the winner was invited on to the pitch to receive his £680 prize. When microphone-wielding matchday MC Dav­id Hamilton asked the fan how long he’d been supporting FFC, the gentleman replied “40 years”, then added: “Chairman Mo, if you are listening, please take us home to where we belong – Craven Cottage!” Cue loud cheers from the stands and a clenched fist salute towards the Loft followed by the supporter being “encouraged” to clear off asap by a suited female FFC employee pointing her clipboard like a Kalashnikov. Word is that the lucky fan was later refused access to the reception area and had his winnings passed to him by a steward through a half-closed door. “Friendly Fulham” eh?
Richard Newson, via email

Dear WSC
It’s an unpleasant subject, but it needs to be addressed. During the recent half-term break, I took my ten-year-old son to Spain to watch the Primera Liga game between Rayo Vallecano and Valencia, and the Champions League fixture between Valencia and Roma. We had a very enjoyable time, and the atmosphere was superb at both games, but one thing com- ­pletely foxed me. At each match I was concerned to note the existence of mysteriously-named vomitorios at numerous locations throughout the grounds. I consulted my Spanish-English dictionary, only to ascertain the meaning of the verb vomitar (translation – to vomit). What does this mean? In both games the home sides were heavily defeated, and vomiting by the home supporters may well have been eminently justifiable. Do Spanish clubs really provide facilities for the fans to be extravagantly sick during poor performances by their teams? And if so, where are they? At the Campo Vallecas and the Mestalla, the invitation appeared to be to project the contents of one’s stomach straight over the edge of the high parapet from where we sat, and presumably on to the poor souls beneath us (well, we did have good seats). Someone must know. Please help.
Dominic Haughton, Falmouth

Dear WSC
There is indeed only one Ryan Giggs ­– an online electoral register checker says so. Dion Dublin is similarly unique. Much like the disciples, there are 12 David Beckhams – enough for a full team and a substitute in case of any unfortunate facial injuries. There are, however, 644 Michael Owens (including, I believe, a fat lad who plays rugby for Wales).
Joe Taylor, Winchester

From WSC 194 April 2003. What was happening this month

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