THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Wasn’t it nice to see Peter Ridsdale go behind the goal to speak to his fans at the recent Everton v Leeds game? If only more chairmen would show this sort of passion and interest in their fans.
Paul Weaver, Cardiff

Dear WSC
“If Arsenal beat West Ham this afternoon they will go two points clear at the top of the Premiership. Leeds will go top if Arsenal draw but only if Charlton lose by three goals or more to Newcastle. Unless, of course, Liverpool can force a draw at Southampton and Leeds go down at Everton, in which case Newcastle will go to second, or top if Arsenal lose. “All this will change as Manchester United will increase their lead at the top if they beat Tottenham tomorrow afternoon.” All right, so it’s not so bad yet but is anyone else as irritated as me by the radio sports reporters and TV pundits when they tell us who could be where at 5pm when they are previewing fixtures? And another thing. Please will you ask match commentators to stop saying “could”, as in “that error by Barthez could cost United the championship” or “Stock-port County could yet make the play-offs.” “Could” and “will” are completely different words and the use of the former doesn’t make commentators into clairvoyants.
Brian Mettrick, via email

Dear WSC
Bob Piper wrote (Letters, WSC 182) in celebration of Doug Ellis’s bicycle kick whilst playing “for the Navy against an Italian IX” after the war. While not wishing to denigrate the skills of the Naval superstar (after all, what have the Navy done since Doug left them?), my rudimentary knowledge of Roman numerals begs the question: If the Italians were two players down from the start, might this not have given Deadly Doug the all important extra space he needed to execute his daring strike?
Mark Lewsey, via email

Dear WSC
After reading the article in WSC 182 about the sad demise of Dai Thomas’s playing career, I can’t help feeling that there was a lost opportunity for both club and player. Following newspaper revelations that the Cardiff chairman Sam Ham-mam employs an overweight yob with convictions for football hooliganism as his minder, this could have been an ideal way for Dai to remain in the game. I would also like to take issue with the statement that “following his release by Cardiff he was unable to get a contract at any club of a reasonable standard”. Actually his next club was my team, Merthyr Tydfil of the Dr Martens Premier Division; although anybody who saw Dai Thomas in action for the Martyrs probably thought Llanbradach in the South Wales amateur league was his correct level.
Leighton Moses, Langore

Dear WSC
How pleased I was to read Chris Duckham’s letter in WSC 182 expressing my thoughts exactly on the application of the offside rule by the officials. This has been a pet moan of mine for quite some time. Despite discussing the subject with a number of referees and having written to the FA, the impression I get is that no one really seams to care that the officials are getting it wrong on a far too regular basis. The only point I would add that Chris didn’t cover is that as human beings I do not think we are capable, particularly when a pass is hit from deep, of watching the ball kicked (to ensure it has gone forward) and at the same time look “along the line for offside”. If the rule cannot be applied correctly how can we justify keeping it?
David Fells, via email

Dear WSC
One point which may have been overlooked in all the controversy about Sheff Utd v WBA is that the match should have been declared null and void anyway as Albion were unnecessarily wearing their away strip. This seems to be a virus – Walsall recently changed from red to white shirts for their away games at Wolves (old gold) and Portsmouth (blue). Good to see therefore that Wrexham wore red at Northampton (claret). We should follow the example of rugby union where two teams will happily wear near-identical kits (Bath v Leicester for example) and this does nothing to spoil the enjoyment of the game.
Glyn Berrington, via email

Dear WSC
The yes/no debate about the use of video replays (WSC 182) made interesting reading. As a rugby league fan first and foremost, but having also seen video used in other sports, it is a constant surprise to me that football has always been so backwards in this respect.As Al Needham pointed out, the post-match debate afterwards in the pub is all part and parcel of following sport, particularly where such debates last for years and years. And the appeal of the phone-ins would diminish if every referee had a perfect game. But something has to give sometime. Why shouldn’t the referee have access to the same technology as every armchair viewer and pundit? Sure, referees in RL have been accused of taking the coward’s route and being too ready to defer to the “square in the air”. But so what? If the correct decision follows, then everyone goes home happy. Or at least, they would have to find something else to moan about. Not quite sure why video replays would make players sneakier. Players taking a dive, or goalies wrap­ped in cotton wool, would be found out. All that needs to happen is for something to go horribly wrong at the World Cup and for England to be on the early plane home, having fallen victim to another Hand of God or even for a Geoff Hurst to have gone against them. Are we all just going to sit there and sigh and think “Ah well, there’s always next time”? Or maybe join the queue of irate callers to 6.06? Or accept that the way forward is to make sure that a wrong call by one individual should not affect a result, when it is so avoidable.
Roger Green, Ackworth

Dear WSC
Trivial I know, but the author of the “Five Minute Partick Thistle” (WSC 182) should really know better than to claim Bluebell, Violet and Thistle as local fauna; animals and plants had been separated long before 1876.
Pete Hughes, via email

Dear WSC
Chris Fyfe’s “Five Minute Partick Thistle” (WSC 182) was an entertaining read and a nice change from the usual spotlight on an English club. I’m sure that come the end of April Chris will be smiling as there seems little doubt that Thistle will go on to claim the First Division title. Fair play to the Jags, they’ve been the most consistent side. John Lambie is also assured of his place in the pantheon of great Scottish managers. Chris’s smile will be all the larger when he considers that Thistle will have achieved their elevation at Airdrie’s expense. Thistle have, however, had considerable advantages over Airdrie since day one. Airdrie have a threadbare squad and are close to bankruptcy; Thistle seem awash with cash and are signing players every other week. Thistle have a huge sup-port which generates atmosphere at every match; Airdrie’s ground is always three-quarters empty. Thistle have undersoil heating; Airdrie’s quagmire pitch ensured a prolonged winter lay-off. Thistle’s success this season is a huge tribute to John Lambie but Airdrie’s ach­ievements, against overwhelming odds, are perhaps the greater. The long unbeat­en run from August to January was almost heroic when you consider the club’s parlous state. The Challenge Cup win (two in a row!) was a minor miracle. We’ve also had the added pleasure of Owen Coyle’s 25 goals (and counting). Airdrie fans take Thistle’s hatred as a back-handed compliment. Thistle do, after all, provide us with the opportunity to win in Glasgow – one which we take quite frequently. Chris’s claim that we’re a violent bunch is surely all about perception. I wonder, for example, of the type of reception I’d receive if I ventured into a Maryhill Road pub wearing Airdrie colours. I don’t intend finding out.
Peter Smith, Glasgow

Dear WSC
Further to Nick Reynolds’s letter in WSC 182 it was established in the 1930s that the Football League was unable to copyright the fixture list as it consists solely of names and dates. The pools companies may have paid a levy but websites (or television and newspapers) are under no such obligation. Has anyone seen that amusing photo from the time of a couple of kids looking at a poster advertising the mouthwatering fixture “Everton versus ???”. Also, when I visited Stamford Bridge with Watford supporters in the mid-Eighties we were not accommodated in the “big open terrace behind the goal” that Stuart Mendo mentions (Letters, WSC 182). We were behind bars in an uncomfortable stink-hole but the 0-0 was one of the best matches I saw that season.
Al Wright, via email

Dear WSC
OK, so Thierry Henry gets a three match ban. I can live with this as long as other players are treated the same way. However, the FA have blatantly shown double standards over the last few months. Here is why. December 8: Roy Keane is shown on TV saying “you are a f***ing a***hole” to Paul Durkin’s face. This is on The Premiership at 9.30 on Sunday morning, obviously to satiate the younger viewer. Durkin took no action. The FA’s options were: a) to say that Durkin saw the incident and took the neccesary action (ie none) or b) to say that what Keane did was wrong and charge him with improper conduct or c) do nothing and condone Keane’s actions. The FA chose a) and c). February 18: Thierry Henry is seen on Sky Sports (not as many viewers as The Premiership) dancing around Graham Poll asking “Why did you do it? Why did you kill the game?” The FA’s options were: a) to say that Poll saw the incident and took the necessary action (he must have seen Henry as he asked the police to arrest him; Poll had the option to book or send him off even though the game was over. He chose neither) or b)to say that what Henry did was wrong and charge him with improper conduct or c) do nothing and condone Henry’s actions. The FA chose b). The FA knew about Keane’s behaviour before they charged Henry. Thierry Henry’s previous disciplinary record has been exemplary. Roy Keane’s has been, well, do I need to tell you? Why did the FA choose a) and c) for Keane and b) for Henry?
Andy Kelly, via email

Dear WSC
When Saturday comes, it’s time for Norwich supporters to put their feet up or (worse still) go shopping. Number of home games this season between Christmas and Good Friday: seven. Number of these on Saturday: nil. I’m sure this is not typical. Have you ever considered renaming the magazine?
CM Child, Norwich

Dear WSC
I have lost count of the number of times I have heard in the media, and elsewhere, that the recent Sheffield Utd against West Brom encounter was the first Football League game abandoned due to a lack of players. All concerned have obviously forgotten the December 1891 game between Burnley and Blackburn Rovers. On a very cold day, Burnley were 3-0 up at half-time. Contemporary accounts say that some of the Blackburn players decided not to come out for the second half, though enough did to enable the referee to restart the match. Soon after the resumption, one player from each side was sent off for fighting. Whatever the circumstances behind this, it was the catalyst for most of the remaining Blackburn players to walk off the pitch and join their colleagues in the warmth of the dressing room. The sole exception to this mass Blackburn exodus was goalkeeper Herby Ar­thur. However, the referee did not abandon the game straight away. The game was only stopped after Burnley’s fourth “goal” was disallowed following a successful appeal for offside. Herby Arthur’s options with the resulting free-kick were, to put it mildly, limited but he still tried to take as long as possible over restarting the game. It was around this time that the referee bowed to the inevitable and abandoned the game. As to what the repercussions were, I’m afraid my research is found wanting. In those days, each abandoned game was judged on its own merits as to whether the score at the time of the abandonment stood (as has happened with the now infamous game at Bramall Lane) or whether the game was replayed from the start. In other sometimes bizarre cases, a third option was used, with the unplayed time (sometimes less than ten minutes) being played out at a later date. I wonder what Gary Megson would have made of that suggestion?
Alun Thomas, Fetcham

Dear WSC
The issue of the missing ITV Digital money has been shrouded in a “David and Goliath” fudge which does little to explain why these clubs have committed themselves to spending cash they have not yet received. This issue is being used by clubs to justify the failure of years of overspending and mismanagement and fans are being asked to believe that if it hadn’t have been for ITV (who have obviously behaved appallingly) all would be tickety boo. Chairmen and executives of failing clubs have been heard a lot on Five Live recently. They spell out in detail the impact on the local and football community of their businesses going bust. Appeals are made for donations over and above the extortionate ticket prices that some of the clubs charge. And no attempt is made by the interviewers to pin down where the blame lies for the initial lack of funds that the ITV money was supposed to rectify. This media manipulation (more serious than Wenger and O’Leary’s moans and groans) must have an impact on the decision makers at the banks who extend more and more concessions to these clubs, and knowing how banks work we can assume that they make their money back on those teams who have endeavoured to live within their means. We can be sure that a factory (employing far more people than a football club) wouldn’t be allowed to trade for years and years in serious debt. Roll on semi-pro football and a return to sound sporting and business values.
Ian Kelp, via email

From WSC 183 May 2002. What was happening this month

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