THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Being a lifelong Leicester City fan (and having the facial lines to prove it), I too read the letter in the Observer (referred to in WSC 190) from the person who claims to not to have had the courage to visit either Filbert Street or Filbert Way for ten years. While no doubt true, does this represent an accurate picture? I sit yards away from dozens of non-white fans who don’t seem to face any problems. To suggest that no progress has been made in ten years is simply nonsense and an insult to those fans who have worked tirelessly around this issue for many years. I don’t know what progress has been made at other clubs (any more than this writer can have at Leicester) but nobody need feel unwelcome at our new stadium. Racism is not primarily a football issue. He or she will risk facing it whenever leaving home and it cannot be defeated without the potential victims having the courage to stand with the rest of us and declare it unacceptable. There is only one colour that matters at Leicester City and that is blue. Wear it and you might find that there was nothing to fear all along.
Chris Lymn, Oadby

Dear WSC
I have been reading WSC for a good 15 years. In all that time I have never seen more than a snippet on Subbuteo, other than the odd arty image. However, I have read lots of different articles with a def­inite bias towards football’s hard-done-bys. So it is unfortunate that you chose to ridicule Subbuteo collectors within your “on the web” section (WSC 190). Subbuteo has been slowly dying since the Eighties and there is only a small core of collectors and players who are striving to keep interest in the game alive. If your researchers delved further they would find an intriguing world of pol­itical power struggles between collectors, a tournament circuit which is shunned by the manufacturers themselves and playing formations of 7-0-3 or 8-1-1. Did you know the World Cup was played in Birmingham this year? It’s a very strange world indeed and nothing is stranger than the current playing equipment. There is an interesting cottage industry creating laser-cut low-profile bases (improving chippability) or heavier toccer players (for beginners). I think your cheap jibes towards the attendees of the Woking Swapmeet were unnecessary. Table soccer enthusiasts are underdogs who need championing, particularly in the world of computer games. If it wasn’t for the internet, I think the game may have died already. So, WSC, now is the time to write something positive on the game and maybe help generate some new interest for an old underdog. Besides, I’m moving to Market Harborough and I need to find some like-minded “saddos”.
Trevor Arthur, Chester

Dear WSC
While reading the Diary in WSC 190 a comment regarding Brighton’s “derby” game with Crystal Palace caught my eye. The question is, what determines wheth­er or not a football match is a derby game? I always understood it to be between two sides from the same city or (to stretch a point) locality. Recently, I have heard of Derby v Forest as an “east midlands” derby and Coventry v Leicester as the “M69” derby. However, the very notion that Bright­on can be involved in a derby match with an (albeit south) London club is, frankly, stretching the point too far. Does this mean that Brighton play derbies against all London clubs? Or is the relevant reason more to do with the fact that both clubs sit conveniently close to the same railway line? Let’s face it, Arsène already moans that there are too many London derbies – what would he think if Brighton were to added to the list?
Neville Spalding, via email

Dear WSC
In his latest “column” for the Sunday Post in Scotland, Ian St John re­fers to “that excellent Nick Hornby football novel When Saturday Comes”. Cutting edge Mr St John ain’t. But you know that.
William Hogg, St Omer, France

Dear WSC
Facundo Sava’s gimmick with the mask would be more impressive if, rather than wearing it himself, he tried to put it on whichever opponent was at fault for the goal he’d just scored (such as Jerzy Dudek at least once in the Fulham v Liverpool game). He may think that he’s harking back to the golden age of Zorro, but this guy needs to be stop­ped. A red card for ungentlemanly conduct under the little-used Law XIX that states “Players shall not use elasticated props to make complete arses of themselves” might do the trick.
Kevin O’Neill, via email

Dear WSC
Various articles about George Best since his recent liver transplant have quoted a particular remark made after his playing career finished. “If I’d been born ugly you’d never have heard of Pelé,” Best is supposed to have said. No explanation is ever offered whenever this quote crops up and no wonder – it doesn’t make obvious sense. Surely he’s not saying that Pelé was a famously ugly footballer? Does Best mean that he would have achieved more in football if he’d been unattractive, ie that it was his swinging lifestyle that curtailed his career? But what does that have to do with overshadowing Pelé, given that the latter was famous for nearly a decade before Best became a star? In any case, do ugly footballers have difficulty pulling? Paul Gascoigne’s various experiences, as recounted by the tab­loids, suggest not. Pelé himself was not exactly a wallflower in this area, having been the subject of at least a couple of paternity suits, though his heyday may be behind him to judge by the worried look on his face in his recent TV appearances advertising products to cope with erectile dysfunction.
Philip Brown, via email

Dear WSC
I’m surely not alone in thinking that the Sheffield Wednesday band are a blight on football, but I wonder if they might also be contributing towards their team’s dire form? I saw them lose 1-0 at Watford last month but, rather than rousing them, the band’s very limited repertoire must surely be sapping the players’ spirits. I don’t mind the brass instruments so much – though it would help if they knew more tunes – it’s the gormless thump of the drummers, familiar of course to anyone who’s watched an England game in recent years. At one point in the second half at Vicarage Road, several police officers were seen making their way up the stand where the away fans sat. For a moment it looked as though they were intent on escorting the “band” from the premises for disturbing the peace, but they stopped half­way up, possibly driven back by the hellish din. Preventative action needs to be taken by the club while Wednesday remain in danger of going down. It would be a sign that the new management means business if there are reports of a large bass drum floating out to sea before the winter is over.
Paul Soderberg, via email

Dear WSC

Has Denilson ever created a goal as a direct result of his famous stepovers (or “lollipops” as Big Ron likes to call them)? I’ve seen him play several times for Brazil and with Betis in the Spanish league and all that happens when he does the step­over is that the defender running alongside him keeps watching the ball and blocks the resulting cross. I suppose that at some point in Denilson’s life, possibly an important schools match when he was about 13, it must have produced a match-winning moment. In seeking to recreate it, he is trying to transport himself back to a less complicated time when all he had to worry about was whether he should spend his spare change on sweets or fags. He needs to move on. Or else come up with a different trick, like Chris Waddle’s pretend backheel (which in turn must have transported its perpetrator back to the lunchtime kickabouts behind the sausage factory in Tow Law).
Mark Higgins, Durham

Dear WSC
I know you guys are not too keen on pedantry, but I’ll have another go at humourlessly crashing your letters page. WSC 190 carries a review of the recently published book The French Revolution that begins with the words “Hard to believe”. Indeed. Whether it is book or reviewer, or both, claiming there was only one French player in top-level British football prior to Didier Six, he/they are seriously in error. There certainly weren’t many, true; but Six wasn’t even the first French international in the west midlands: step forward former Olympique de Paris defender Eugène Langenove at Walsall in 1922-23. On the other hand, M Crozier, the cross-Channel pioneer actually mentioned, didn’t get so much as a single first-team competitive game with Southern League Fulham. And don’t get me started on Brits in French football prior to the brief Hoddle/Waddle/Hateley exodus: there were some 60-odd former Football League players with French clubs within the first three years of them professionalising their league in 1932, and umpteen bona fide amateurs assisting their top clubs prior to that. Trust me, I can tell my Francophilia from my Frank O’Farrell.
Paul Taylor, via email

Dear WSC

Brian Clough recently became the latest in a series of football pundits to comment that Michael Owen isn’t a “natural goalscorer”. But what does this mean? Owen has scored about a million goals since he was a teenager – how more “natural” could he be? How are natural goalscorers identified in any case? Are they the kids who somehow found themselves in exactly the right place in a department store when a new consignment of Power Ran­gers turned up on the shelves? Do they gauge their run into the school dinner queue so as to arrive just in time for the last jam pudding, a skill that other kids take years to learn? I think it’s more likely that certain football managers believe in natural goal­scorers in the same way that some people believe in ghosts. Believers are sure that such entities exist, non-believers require conclusive visible proof. Scep­tics will be aware that the latest in a long line of players to be identified as a “natural” is Francis Jeffers, who is currently not banging them in for Arsenal to such an impressive extent that he’s been linked with a loan move to the First Division.
Graeme Burton, via email

Dear WSC
Now that David O’Leary is being blamed for Leeds United’s poor form this season, isn’t it time we gave Walter Smith some credit for Everton’s excellent run of results?
Matt Hannon, Stirling

Dear WSC
I’m writing for is a bit of advice really. During the recent Tottenham v Leeds on TV, Alan Parry stated that, as well as giving him a yellow card, the referee had also given Gus Poyet a “disapproving wink”. I was just wondering if there was anybody out there who could let me know how you do a wink of this sort, as me and my mate spent most of the afternoon trying to execute such a wink, and could only accomplish looking as camp as a row of tents. I am willing to pay for your knowledge.
Jason Taylor, Glossop

Dear WSC
I was intrigued to read in last month’s issue that the Nottingham Forest manager Paul Hart identifies himself as “a Taurean”. According to my research on the internet, Taurus is “a feminine sign and very magnetic”, which might possibly be useful when trying to sign players. On the other hand, Taureans are “naturally lazy and have a tendency to over- indulge” (not a great role model for youngsters), while “health issues are often focused on problems to do with the throat and neck, or by polarity with the reproductive organs” (I believe this did indeed account for the end of Hart’s playing career). “Hunky Taurus is physically strong and solidly built” (certainly). “You also like to potter around the garden, and delight in other outdoor activities: picnics, hikes, trips to botanical gardens or the zoo” (can anyone in the Nottingham area confirm?). Perhaps alarmingly for traditionalists among Forest fans, Taureans’ colours are “brown, russet and turquoise”, although “the emerald’s rich, green colour is quite appropriate too, since it is the colour of money, lush countryside and relaxation”. So if you find Forest turning out in an emerald and russet away strip anytime soon, you will know why. Mind you, it could be worse. My team Stoke City have just appointed Tony Pulis as manager. And he’s a Capricorn...
Sue Parker, Wednesbury

Dear WSC
England’s women’s team recently failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup – but I could have told them not to bother taking the field for the matches with France with a pony-tailed goalkeeper in their line-up. You never get anywhere with them.
Mark Jones, via email

From WSC 191 January 2003. What was happening this month

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