You may not be aware that fans from Madrid and Leverkusen attending the Champions League final at Hampden Park were handed a Scottish goody bag by the Daily Record containing, among other things, a Tunnock’s caramel wafer and a can of Coke. Class.
Glenn McCall, Dundee
How kind of you to include the logo of the Oceania Football Confederation in your World Cup debate (WSC 184), given the failure of any OFC teams to qualify for the finals this time around. OFC may yet get an automatic place in Germany 2006. Soccer Australia has asked both candidates in the FIFA Presidential election to make statements of support for OFC’s participation in future World Cups. Please, Uncle Sepp... As shown by the recent promotion of two Australians (Tiatto, Lazaridis) to the Premiership, maybe we have enough quality players to deserve qualification, but the old club v country dilemma, compounded by geography, has been a constant impediment to qualification. However, maybe it won’t be Australia who qualifies if OFC gets an automatic spot. I had the pleasure (?) of being in the crowd watching Australia beat American Samoa (31-0) and Tonga (22-0), but also saw a strong showing from Fiji who were only beaten 2-0. It would have been interesting if Australia had played a return leg in Fiji.
Danny O’Hagan, Canberra, Australia
It’s not altogether clear exactly what point Chris Bickley (Letters, WSC 184) is trying to make but misquoting Joe Kinnear doesn’t help. Joe never said Luton should be champions because we scored more goals. He actually said, on April 11: “We could still end up with 99 points and 100 goals and not be champions. That would be two exceptional performances by both teams. But I’m still greedy enough to want to win the championship.” Hardly derogatory about Plymouth, and what manager wouldn’t be disappointed not to get the championship after winning 11 of our last 12 games, and with an aggregate score of 35-6? Not bad for a team that Chris claims was without a “sound defence” and who, apparently, was unable to field a side because of suspensions. Maybe Chris is just trying to say Luton’s manager is an arrogant so and so? Well, hardly earth shattering news is it? After all even Big Fat Joe himself wouldn’t disagree...
Steve Bailey, Woodbridge
I have every sympathy with Chris Bickley (Letters, WSC 184) with regard to Messrs Pardew and Kinnear. However he should feel himself lucky that he doesn’t live in the Radio Lancashire area, where we are weekly assured by Steve McMahon that Blackpool are far and away the outstanding team in the Second Division: best players, tactics, passing, capable of outplaying any team in the division and most in the First. As Blackpool finished 16th I am somewhat at a loss regarding these assertions but obviously Steve knows best. This leads me to wonder if it is not time to change the whole basis for promotion and relegation. It is apparent that managers have much to offer in these areas so let’s give them a real say in the future of their own club and of other clubs. I suggest that we sweep away the whole points system and form a Promotion and Relegation Committee. At the end of the season clubs could present their case for promotion, and the relegation of others, to the Committee. When all the arguments had been heard the Committee would be sealed up in Football League headquarters until all issues had been decided. The case for promotion could include factors such as: 1) We are better than anyone else. 2) We don’t like playing some of the other teams because they are dirty/ugly/say nasty things about our centre-forward and beat us every time. 3) Our manager could be asked to join a discussion group on Sky. 4) Higher profile for off the field activities. Better chance of making the front page of the Sun/ Star/Mirror after our Christmas party. Reasons for nominating relegation candidates could include: 1) They always beat us. 2) Nasty kit, ie tangerine shirts. 3) Their manager is a loudmouth. 4) Playing them involves too much travel – the pubs are closed by the time we get back. The Committee’s final decisions would be reached on a 24-hour Football Special on Sky. I am convinced that this would be a much more satisfactory approach than the unfair points system.
J Threlfall, via email
While watching Bayer Leverkusen v Man Utd on ITV1 on April 30, I was struck by Clive Tyldesley’s constant references to “Seba” Veron. All the other players merited only being referred to by their surnames, but Clive had decided that the ineffectual Argentinean was different. On the rare occasions he stopped daydreaming about Japan and Korea and ventured to try a shot or pass to a red shirt (obviously the word “tackle” cannot be included here), Clive enthusiastically shrieked “Seba Veron” this or “Seba Veron” that. This made me ponder two things. Does he think Veron is actually a hyphenated, double-barrelled name? Or, more likely, does Clive want us to think that he is buddies with Veron, to the extent that he knows “Seba’s” chums abbreviate his first name, and so wants to show off this bit of inside info? Is he a bit like the nerd in the playground who pretends to be on first name terms with the cool kids?
Alastair Watt, via email
Delighted as I was to seem my team get a mention in the A to Z of Footballers (WSC 184), I have serious doubts as to the accuracy of the statement that Huddersfield Town’s Phil Starbuck scored just three seconds after coming on as a substitute in April 1993. As I recall, the dugouts at Leeds Road were conventionally situated near the centre line, so to achieve this amazing feat Starbuck would have to have sprinted 50 yards in two and a half seconds, allowing half a second for the ball to leave his cranium and cross the goal line. Of course, as a committed Christian, Starbuck himself may well claim some divine assistance from the Almighty but personally I doubt it. Since this supposed miracle He has shown Town, and Starbuck for that matter, perilously few favours.
Neil Hughes, Troon
Following on from the Ipswich v Man Utd game and the commentator’s much repeated mantra about the referee having to be “100 per cent certain bearing in mind what’s at stake” (the insinuation here being that for the rest of the season they award penalties if they’re not too sure), I can only surmise that the three points on offer at the end of the season are worth far more than those available at the beginning. Therefore can I suggest in future seasons these games are rescheduled to the beginning of the season when the referees are fresh and able to keep up with play, the playing squad is generally fitter and refreshed from their summer break, and the pitches are all in pristine condition? At least this way teams can play out the remainder of the season knowing that they’ve been relegated or not but content in the knowledge that all the variables were stacked favourably.
Colin Smith, Tunbridge Wells
My left foot regularly attends the opera, goes to art galleries and not only recognises classical music but knows who the composer is. With such a cultured left foot why have I been overlooked for England’s World Cup squad?
Jake Fleming, Swindon
In response to Gerard Redican’s criticism of my piece on QPR (Letters, WSC 184), the point of the article was not to blame the League for the club’s financial situation (there is a long queue for that particular honour), but to ask why the League had no contingency plans in place for this type of situation. Every aspect of the affair seems to have been decided on the spur of the moment. The questions I wanted answered were why the League sanctioned the transfers in the first place of rules had been broken, and why there seemed to be no coherent policy making clubs placed into administration hostages to fortune somewhat. The League have already loosened rules concerning administration with regards to entry into the Nationwide divisions because of the ITV Digital collapse and may have to make further concession on player acquisition if some clubs are to be able to field full sides in coming years. I hope the Football League can help clubs overcome the difficulties facing them in the near future rather than exacerbating the situation.
Paul Tracey, via email
Regarding speculation as to the destination of the World Cup. Readers who like a bet should heed the Oracle. Just as England only win when there is a Labour government, France only win it in a year when Arsenal do the double. Nuff said.
Paul Smith, via email
I’d like to follow up Don MacCorquodale’s comments (Letters, WSC 184) on video replays. Another sport which uses them, but sensibly only with limited criteria, is cricket. Again, as with his examples, this can lead to absurd results where the replay picks up an umpiring mistake on which the video referee is not allowed to rule. There is a further objection which may not have yet been highlighted – they undermine the authority of the man in the middle. The tendency with cricket and rugby has been to refer even fairly clear-cut decisions. The ref takes the option because it’s not his decision. Picture this: ex-champions Man Utd score a lightning counter-attack goal stemming from an opposition corner at the other end. Further imagine that a header from that corner belted down off the bar and bounced out again. There is no break in play, was it over the line? Referee and linesman consult whilst play goes on. United go down the other end and score. All over in seconds. One of the beauties of football is its uninterrupted flow. What happens if play is stopped to refer to the video referee? We have to trust the officials to do the job. They see each incident only once, at full speed. Unfortunately they’re only human and occasionally make mistakes, but on the whole do all right. Let’s not undermine them. And another thing. I’m glad WSC has picked up on the pernicious media habit of not noting any records from before 1992. Who cares about records that are only ten years old? I was impressed by the unknown teletext writer who after the Man Utd v Arsenal game informed us that Arsenal are the first team since Preston in 1888-89 to go through a season undefeated away. Now there’s a record.
Adrian Allabarton, Cardiff
I must take exception with Gabriele Marcotti’s astonishing assertion (WSC 184) that at France 98 “most people didn’t know or care anything about football”. France gave the World Cup and the European Cup to football and it boasts a thriving professional league, in spite of the fact that most of its top players have chosen to play abroad. It has football clubs in Olympique de Marseille, PSG, Lens and Saint Etienne whose supporters’ passion is on a par with that of their counterparts in England, Italy and Spain. Attendances at French first division matches have been on an upward trend for many years and the French federation has organised football from grassroots up on an impressive scale. I live for three months of the year in Provence. Football and OM in particular (rather, sadly, than my local club FC Martigues) is far and away the prime sporting interest of the region. At the last World Cup even my non football following friends were swept along in the fervour generated by the French triumph. Thousands of people took to the streets – most notably in the Champs Elysées – to celebrate the victory over Brazil and the World Cup squad’s re-worked version of I Will Survive has entered popular culture to a profoundly irritating extent. No tacky TV light entertainment show would be complete without a rendition these days it seems. France is to be commended for its plurality of sporting passions – not to mention achievements – but to lump its football following pedigree alongside the land of baseball and gridiron is as insulting as it is inaccurate.
Colin Farmery, Southsea
Having shared idle poolside chat with Alan Duncan during the recent African Nations Cup in Mali one might have presumed that we inhabited the same planet. But his claim that Rigobert Song was “about the best player there” (WSC 184) raises considerable doubt. But maybe I am being unfair: Song was, after all, relentlessly consistent. Positionally inept, rash in the tackle and conspicuously lacking pace. In other words displaying all shortcomings that saw him shown the door at both Anfield and Upton Park. At the back end of the season I caught a glimpse of a similar display on the German equivalent of Match of the Day as his new club Cologne plunged out of the Bundesliga. No, by and large, dear Rigobert, in a strong Cameroon line-up, was the principal contender for the Anne Robinson award. But Alan Duncan goes on to claim that Song’s difficulties in the European game are down to a lack of nuff respect and there possibly lies an explanation. For had Alan’s assertion regarding Song referred to the tournament four years previously in Burkina Faso there would have been no argument. Has the manifest deterioration got something to do with attitude? In Mali with the bandana, the conspicuous tattoo, the Tikken Jah Fakoly stare, Rigobert Song seemed more intent on impersonating the lead guitarist of Burning Spear than playing football. I look forward to his performances in the forthcoming World Cup with particular fascination.
Chris Oakley, Hampstead
From WSC 185 July 2002. What was happening this month