THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
I found Rob Smythe’s comments on Juan Pablo Angel to be a heart-warming defence of life as an assimilating millionaire. I agree that the lazy journalists of which he speaks should “get off their fat arses and make their way up to Villa Park”. Perhaps they could give some of the absent Villa fans a lift while they are at it. For every London-based hack missing out on “the best Villa side for a number of years” there are 1,500 Villa fans out shopping on a Saturday. Oh hang on, Newcastle v Villa is game of the day on tonight’s show. It looks like the team forgot to turn up to this one. Twen­ty minutes prime time and you blew it. Note to Des – only show extended coverage of Villa when they win. Happy, Mr Smythe?
Chris Wright, via email

Dear WSC
Paul Jordan’s assertion (Letters, WSC 178) that Tottenham Court Road should be Tord Grip’s tube stop of choice for getting to work in Soho Square is dependent on whereabouts in west London Sven’s eagle-eyed right hand man lives. If he lives along the Shepherd’s Bush-Holborn axis, also handily passing through Lancaster Gate, then the Central Line direct to Tottenham Court Road is indeed the route for him. However, if he lives somewhere in between Knightsbridge and Hammersmith, then he would surely take the Piccadilly Line to Leicester Square and walk up Charing Cross Road to work. Fannying around switching lines to get to Tot­ten­­ham Court Road is, in this instance, a false economy. The precious minutes saved could mean the difference between triumph and defeat in 2002, so let’s all pull together to get Tord to work on time.
Chris Denne, London NW6

Dear WSC
In his article on the lack of soccer on BBC Wales (WSC 177), Paul Ashley-Jones omitted one other point. In its own Saturday sports programme, Wales on Saturday, BBC Wales gives the rugby union results of five divisions but only the top level, ie the League of Wales, in its soccer segment.
W Paganuzzi, Nefyn

Dear WSC
I sympathise with Paul Ashley-Jones in his complaints about Welsh TV’s pro-rugby bias (WSC 178). But much the same may be said of our national newspapers. Check out a Sunday broadsheet (the Telegraph is the worst offender) and you will typically find around seven pages of football coverage and three to four of rugby (much more on a Five Nations weekend). Then look at the attendances in the Zurich Premiership, rugby’s elite club competition. They are absolutely pathetic! Some Second or Third Division football clubs get bigger gates than the top club rugby sides. The blunt truth is that outside south Wales, Cumbria, Cornwall and a few corners of south-east England, nobody is much interested in rugby union. So why does it enjoy such generous and usually sycophantic coverage in the press (remember all those Eighties articles contrasting “well-behaved” rugger types with “soccer yobs”)?
John Bourn, Turku, Finland

Dear WSC
Congratulations for one of the most sensible editorials I have read in some time (WSC 178). As a Sunday League referee, I agree to a point with everything written. Before the days of Sky TV, with every angle shown and marginal decision questioned, ref-baiting was left to those on the terraces who would moan into their post-match analysis pints and then forget about it the next morning. The simple fact is that that referees are now fitter, all follow the same rules and interpret the Laws of the Game to the best of their ability. There are no hidden agendas and no bias to the way that any referee officiates. The simple “hiring and firing” of the “Select Group” will only damage relations more, and by paying referees you are not going to make them any better at what they do – this will only come with continual training.
Martin Naylor, via email

Dear WSC
I agree with many of the points made in your editorial (WSC 178) regarding referees. However, I feel that an important point has been somewhat overlooked. Paul Durkin and Dermot Gallagher, having failed to carry out adequately the directives laid down by the Powers That Be, have been demoted, albeit temporarily, to the Nationwide League. If these guys have not met the required standard in the Premiership, why are they deemed capable of doing so in the Nationwide? It’s the same game, with the same rules (allegedly) so why should we (supporters of teams outside the “Select Group”) accept these “disgraced” officials while they are taught a lesson and do their penance? Is this an admission that lower standards are acceptable, even expected, in our little league? Surely a suspension and a refresher course back at refs’ school is more appropriate. The irony is that I consider Paul Durkin to be one of the best referees around. If he’s not good enough, then God help the rest of them. I don’t want to see referees, branded (however temporarily) too poor to grace the Premiership, given matches in the Nationwide League as a punishment. It’s punishment enough watching your team play in the Third Division...
Mark Whelan, via email

Dear WSC
David Stubbs’s critique of Mike Bassett: England Manager in WSC 178 not only misses the point of the film, but I think also the point of making something up to be funny (ie comedy). Are we to believe that Owen, Beckham etc were all discarded since 1998 in favour of a new team? No, of course we’re not, no more than Del Boy’s spring water glows in the dark, or for that matter that a boy called Harry Potter can fly a broomstick. It’s called suspension of disbelief. And no, obviously a secretary wouldn’t think that Benson and Hedges should be on the team sheet, but wasn’t watching Mike try to explain his selection funny? “The footballers are barn-door stereotypes.” Yes, they are, and the fact that you can relate them to real footballers, that you can put your own names to the faces in the film, whether playboys, pissheads or thuggish centre-halves, adds to the humour. Finally, belief in the Three Lions patriotism over skill and tactics may be misguided, but it hasn’t stopped England managers in the past and who’s to say it won’t in the future?  So David, it’s not supposed to be real, but echoes of the reality of the past help make it funny. I didn’t think it was a great film, but it was worth watching and you should lighten up a bit and view it as it’s meant to be seen.
Andy Thorn, Bristol

Dear WSC
I enjoyed your article about the strange case of Peter Beagrie (WSC 178) but the piece suggested that the story had stop­ped. I recall little of Beagrie at Everton or Man City but I really noticed him at Bradford when I saw him relentlessly teasing Gunnar Halle (then playing for Leeds) in a cup game. I have liked him ever since so imagine my shock when my club, Scunthorpe, signed him for nowt this summer as a player-coach. The man has so far not disappointed. Already he has seven goals and numerous assists. However, he’s also indulging in the bits of theatre which your contributor felt he had lost. In August, he scored direct from a corner against local rivals Lincoln. Then, against Orient, he was about to be substituted in the last minute, when we won a free-kick. He refused to go off, and lashed the ball into the top corner for 4-1, then trotted over to the touch line. Magic. He is by far the most talented player I’ve seen in an Iron shirt, but I don’t think it will really sink in that we signed him until he’s gone.
George Young, via email

Dear WSC
I’ve just read David Emanuel’s letter (WSC 178) and would like to add my own tedious fact to the “World Cup Contenders England” discussion. All of the players who started against Germany are coached by foreigners in the forms of Houllier, Ferguson, Wenger and O’Leary. What now the chances of an English coach to follow Sven? Of course, in a few years’ time after Wolves have been reinstated as the leading team in Europe (we prefer to discount the latter half of the 20th century) we will be prepared to do a Fulham and release Dave Jones for the national good.
Chris Reynolds, via email

Dear WSC
Back in April I was fortunate en­ough to be granted a lengthy audience with Tord Grip in the FA canteen. As a result, I believe I am in a position to explain his choice of tube station. Mr Grip is perfectly capable of finding his way around the capital. Using a tube station some distance away from Soho Square is his way of getting some exercise before work. Sometimes he walks all the way, completely ignoring the tube. Swedes like to keep fit, you see.
Anders Larsson, Yeovil

Dear WSC
Why on earth did the FA do away with the regionalisation of the first two rounds of the FA Cup? Surely it can’t have been at the request of clubs? Non-League teams hoping for a money-spinning home tie are bound to get smaller crowds when they play a team from the other end of the country. Last season Dulwich Hamlet reached the first round proper for the first time in over 50 years, only to be drawn at home to Southport. This year we’ve seen Whitby Town playing Plymouth and having to make that long journey for the replay, inconvenient for both players and supporters. The FA Cup is already losing the prominent place it once held in English football culture, so the last thing it needs is to be tweaked in a way that almost guarantees crowds will fall in the early rounds.
Tim Foley, Norbiton

Dear WSC
Ken Gall’s possible solution for the future funding of Scottish football (WSC 178) has a simple flaw. It is indeed a noble idea to put together a budget for hosting the European championship, then withdraw the bid, and invest half of that budget in building the game. Problem is, budgets have two sides. When you figure out the money needed to host the Euros, it is based mainly on income from that event. If you no longer host the event, the income disappears, and even half the cost no longer exists. You could make the argument that an investment now will pay for itself in the future, but you can adopt that strategy and still host the Euros. One has nothing to do with the other, in effect.
Robin McMillan, via email

Dear WSC
I’ve found an imaginative solution to three key problems with the modern game, namely: 1) The perception of the Worthington Cup as a second-rate competition. 2) The excessive number of games being played by our top professionals/internationals. 3) The lack of financial support filtering down to grass roots clubs. First, scrap the Worthington Cup. It serves no purpose but to clog the fixture list with games that, on the whole, neither clubs nor fans are particularly interested in. Second, scrap the system of byes in the FA Cup. 608 teams entered this year’s competition, yet come the time of the third round draw, only 20 will be from outside of the top two divisions. This seems completely inequit­able. Where’s the “romance” in a Cup where 44 of the 64 third round competitors are known from day one? Instead, start with 96 preliminary ties to whittle the entrants down to 512. Then, every remaining team enters the draw for the first round proper. Obviously police advice would have to be followed as regards venue, but the income generated is likely to secure the financial wellbeing of small non-League clubs for years to come. With all ties to be settled on the day, this structure would mean that nine matches will be required to win the Cup. This compares favourably for the Premiership sides in relation to the current FA/Worthington Cup structure. Furthermore, I don’t think that we’d see an empty Old Trafford for a visit by Abbey Hey (another first stage loser this year). As the FA Cup would now be the only domestic cup, would Mr Ferguson run the risk of fielding the kids alone? And, with 512 teams entering the first round proper and only 20 of these representing the “big boys” (a mere four per cent of entrants), what better way of seeing a smaller club on a sustained Cup run? At the very least, we’d see some non-League teams getting further than certain Premiership clubs, purely through the luck of the draw. Even as a supporter of a Premiership team, I’d rather see every club being given a fair chance. Even if it is at the risk of a shock defeat to Long Buckby in October. Or maybe I’ve finally lost the plot.
M Naylor, via email

Dear WSC
Does anyone know what is going on at Queens Park Ran­gers? It is well reported that the club has been in admin­istration since April 2001, but as yet is still unsold. Why is this? Is there nobody out there who wishes to save this once great club? How is it that twice a proposed buyer has entered into “exclusivity” talks but we still await news of a takeover? I would love to know how Chris Wright has been able to call the tune on these potential bids. I was under the impression that he had resigned his position as chairman of the club. I have always thought that if a company is in administration it was the administrators who decided which bid was in the best interests of the company. Why is this not the case with QPR?
Sandra Lee, London W10

Dear WSC
Mark Blakemore need not worry that Peter Beagrie is unappreciated (WSC 178). Since Bradford City signed him for a bargain fee of £20,000 in July 1997 (probably our best ever buy) he has a host of fans here. In his next season he linked up with more ambitious signings Lee Mills and Isaiah Rankin (maybe our worst buy). For our wonderful promotion season Beags was at his twisty-turny best, mesmerising full-backs and Mills, tantalising them with the promise of a cross. He was less effective in the Premiership, but he always did do better with the ball than without it. I will always remember him for his blind-alley explorations; for scoring pen­alties (and not missing them) and for his awesome (often late) long distance flying tackles that showed us in the stands that someone on the pitch cared enough to risk a booking. And for two goals in particular. One was the fizzing shot from nowhere that left Nigel Martyn clawing the air and gave us the fleeting hope that we could get something out of the Leeds game. The other was scored by Robbie Blake. Peter received a ball out defence as he was standing on the half-way line. Seemingly without a glance, he hit the ball first time over his shoulder for Edinho to run on to. As he reached it out on the right wing, he crossed to Blake who stroked it in. A high quality goal to decide a tight match with Charlton in 1998.
Tim Noble, via email

From WSC 179 January 2002. What was happening this month

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