THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Whilst sleeping my way through the recent Varteks v Villa game, the aftermath of a rather nasty tackle by George Boateng reminded me fondly of the late Brian Moore. On seeing the verdict of the referee, Barry Davies announced with a resigned air that “the card is red” when, correct me please if I am wrong, it was quite obviously yellow. Either dear Barry is colour blind or he’s taking it upon himself to replicate the obvious inaccuracies that Brian was regularly capable of. Trouble is, I used to laugh at the old planetarium head, but just found myself shouting “That’s crap Barry, it’s yellow” at the screen in a really irritated manner. I suppose it livened up the worst game this millennium though.
Dave Wallace, via email

Dear WSC
I share David Emanuel’s nostalgia for post-roast Sunday afternoons in the company of the late Brian Moore (Letters, WSC 177). I even came to regard as endearing (rather than annoying) the great man’s recurrent inability to utter coherent words as a goal was scored. Yet I do sometimes wonder whether there is a parallel universe where the young Moore was snapped up by the BBC to be given his big break in the 1966 World Cup. Imagine the scene deep into extra time of the final as Bobby Moore pokes a pass forward to Geoff Hurst (in a proper parallel universe it would be Jack Charlton to Jimmy Greaves, but let’s not quibble about that). Brian describes the ensuing moments thus: “And here’s Hurst... there are some people on the pitch Ron... they think it’s all over... is it?... no... YES... AND IT’S IN THERE!!”
Ben Rosamond, via email

Dear WSC
Has anyone else noticed the striking similarity between the Subbuteo figure in the “Football and Plastic – We Weren’t the First” Barclaycard ad and Seventies Ipswich defender John Peddelty? After scoring a Goal of the Month contender against Leeds in 1975, our man headed west and into relative obscurity as one of the makeweights in the deal which brought Paul Mariner to Ipswich from Plymouth. This was the man over whom controversy raged as Bobby Robson insisted on emphasising the first syllable of his surname and pronouncing it Pedd-elty, whilst the rest of us (except Barry Davies, of course) thought it was the same sound as a part of a bicycle, ie “Pedal-ty”.
Graham de Max, via e-mail

Dear WSC
Phil Ball (Letters, WSC 177) is completely entitled to his opinion on ITV’s football schedule, but as one of the “middle aged men in a replica top” (except that they weren’t all men) on the Monday night show, I would like my two penn’orth, please. I do not disagree with his comments about the passing of Match of the Day, and I too lament its current absence. However, the Monday night show was devised, I feel, to fulfil a different purpose – whether or not it has succeeded is a different issue, but I genuinely believe that the creators of the show had a sense of wanting to bring the fans’ voices to the fore. This is something that has not been addressed on other terrestrial TV shows, but has been popular on Sky. I know that on the occasions that I’ve watched Soccer AM I’ve found it a damn sight more entertaining than Football Focus, if not necessarily more informative. This does not mean that I am a gibbon incapable of understanding supposed “sophisticated” arguments of “proper” football pundits, but that I find fans bantering and talking to each other about issues that affect them both amusing and interesting. Regardless of how the fans come across on the show in the short airtime we have, we are all passionate and committed supporters of our clubs, and all have much to say – I am acutely aware of how the soundbites we actually squeeze in make our contributions sound trivial and tokenistic. I some­times think film of us all sat having a beer and talking before the show would make for a more accurate portrayal of what fans debate. The show is by no means perfect, and we are the first to moan if we think that the fans are there to boost the numbers. But in at least attempting to schedule airtime (albeit increasingly late airtime) to people who actually go to games and support their clubs, ITV deserve some credit, regardless of whether the show survives or not. I find Phil’s comment “give supporters a voice, but limit it to the written word” saddening and disheartening. Supporters are the heart of all football, and telling them to shut up is what I expect to come from a chairman, not a fellow fan.
Anna Caswell, Preston

Dear WSC
While reading Ian Cusack’s article in WSC 177 (The Teacher’s Tale) I was surprised, but not unamused, to read the words “shattered”, “smashing” and “even break” in one sentence. The reason for my mirth was that the preceding sentence described how Ian had found that he’d be working alongside Glenn Cockerill; Glenn Cockerill being the mullet-and-tached Southampton stalwart who is surely most famous among football fans for needing to have his jaw wired after an encounter with Paul Davis’s fist at Highbury in 1988. (Cockerill had raked his studs down Davis’s shins to the extent they needed stitches.) Was Cockerill really a player that Ian Cusack had always admired or was the sentence in question an intentionally sly dig at him after all these years? Or was it the case that merely by writing the words “Glenn Cockerill” a plethora of phrases pertaining to osteo-matters poured subliminally into Ian’s word processor?
Simon Jarvis, via email

Dear WSC
One doesn’t hear it so much from all and sundry in the game these days but Ron Atkinson can still be relied on to talk about the “David Beckhams” and “Roy Keanes” of this world even while there is clearly only one each of them on the pitch (or pitches, if he invariably follows up with a meditation on “the Old Traffords”). So I was fascinated to come across an earlier usage of the same multiple vision in an old pamphlet issued by the Workers’ Music Association towards the end of the 1930s written by AL Lloyd and called The Singing Englishman. I quote from page 3: “The library catalogues are fat with books on music and if you skip through them you will find on every page the names of the famous figures, the glorious and illustrious and romantic men, the Scarlattis and Bachs, the Haydns, Mozarts, Beethovens and Stravinskys, and that is as it should be, without a doubt, for after all they are great individuals.” It continues: “But others are concerned in the story, too, who do not appear in the books; a whole nameless mass of people who stoked in a monastery bake­house perhaps, or hammered in a wheelwright’s shop, who learned to use a long bow fighting the guerrillas in the Welsh hills, who mended pans on the Great North Road...” The Workers’ Music Association was one of the many cultural fronts of the old Communist Party of Great Britain and such organisations have left us a rich heritage way beyond the more narrowly po­l­itical aims of the movement. One could while away many happy hours matching particular contemporary footballers with the descriptions of the common people so described – who, for instance, is the current League equivalent of those mend-­ing pans on the Great North Road, or stoking in monastery bakehouses? I like to think of Big Ron’s syntax as a remnant of another age, bearing as it does the fading imprint of a once proud revolutionary tradition.
Dave Quayle, Milton Keynes

Dear WSC
After Sunderland lost at Middlesbrough, Peter Reid mentioned in his post match interview that a win would have seen the team rise to sixth in the Premiership, pointing out the thin line between success and failure, relatively speaking. However, he had overlooked that fact that at no time did we appear to look like winning, or indeed deserve to win, the match. This was an example of how overrated the Premiership is as a whole: Middlesbrough were poor, but the fact that Sunderland couldn’t even construct an equal­iser with a man advantage said it all. For just about the first time since we got back in the Premiership the fans turn­ed against the team on an away ground. But the simmering discontent on Wearside is not really aimed at the players, but at the manager. There is a problem with this, though. Sunderland fans cannot get the current predicament into the national spotlight at all. Any fan, and there have been many, who gets on to the Radio 5 6.06 phone-in or, as after the Middlesbrough game, You’re On Sky Sports, to express dissatisfaction at the manager is without fail told to stop moaning and look at what Peter Reid has done for the club. This excuse has worn thin. Peter Reid is doing a grand job if you believe the national media. I for one feel he is in grave danger of undoing all he has done for Sunderland.
Keith Watson, via email

Dear WSC
We’re regularly told that King Sven (with the help of Tord Grip) watches more matches than any England manager ever has before, the implication being that the best and most in-form players are more likely to be selected, whoever they play for. The selection of Chris Powell is given as the best example of this. It is interesting, therefore, to note that in the critical last three World Cup qualifiers, all of Mr Eriksson’s selected XI play for the “big four” (Man Utd, Arsenal, Liverpool and Leeds). If you include the substitutes used in these games, only three do not hail from these teams – McManaman and Hargreaves (both currently playing for two of the European elite) and Sheringham (who has only just left the champions). Admittedly, Gareth Southgate was on the bench in all three games too – perhaps playing for Steve McClaren helps? I’m not suggesting there’s any great conspiracy here – after all, one would expect the best teams to have the best players, and it may be no coincidence that every single player used in these games has had recent Champions League experience. However, I wonder if it indicates that in today’s lop-sided Premiership, you’ve more chance of being picked for your country if you’re an occasional player for one of the big clubs (Fowler, Barmby, Phil Neville) than if you are playing regularly (and well) elsewhere. If so, will this simply increase the flow of good players to these few big clubs? Richard Wright and Francis Jeffers have decided to swap first-team Premier­ship football for Arsenal reserves. With a World Cup squad to aim for, I won­der where Kevin Phillips, Trevor Sinclair and Joe Cole will be playing by next summer?
David Emanuel, via email

Dear WSC
I need to correct a number of lazy journalists in the national press. It is not just Juan Pablo Angel’s superb form this season that has endeared him to Aston Villa fans – even last season we were completely behind him. This might surprise some given that he took a long time to settle in, but maybe Villa fans can recognise a good player when they see one (and heaven knows we’ve seen enough bad ones over the years). Most Villa fans were aware of the problems that JPA had with family illness, accommodation and having to adapt to a culture (footballing and otherwise)that is starkly different to anything he has experienced in Colombia and Argentina. Until recently, these factors were ignored by the national media, who preferred the more obvious “waste of money” angle. The old story of a record signing not being able to settle and consequently getting the fans on his back is definitely not applicable in this case. Maybe the London-based experts should have a look at the league table, get off their fat arses and make their way up to Villa Park, where they will see the best Villa side for a number of years. And why did we only get about 90 seconds of coverage on The Premiership on October 27? We’d just beaten Bolton – something that Man Utd, Liverpool, Leeds and Arsenal have all failed to do this season – to become League leaders, yet we were all but ignored by the programme. No wonder no one wat­ches it when they overlook a pulsating game involving the team at the top, preferring instead to focus on the so-called glamour clubs (who can’t beat Bolton) playing out draws and easy victories. A mis­sed opportunity to praise the Villa, ITV, because let’s face it, it won’t last.
Rob Smythe, Stafford

Dear WSC
Steve Bruce seems to have averaged a club every few months since first becoming a manager. Now he appears to be very keen to leave Crystal Palace for Birmingham, though at the time of writing this hasn’t gone through, with Palace having offered an improved contract. I take it that we will never hear him complain as a manager about his players being tapped up by other clubs. And that Palace won’t complain if he leaves them after getting a better offer (and we know which club he’d really like to manage). The League Managers Association is very quick to complain about their members being sacked but I’ve not yet heard of them publicly reprimanding someone for walking away from clubs whenever it suits. Or perhaps there aren’t really any principles to safeguard and it’s just a question of looking after your own?
David Cox, Wigan

Dear WSC
While your feature on Tord Grip in the last issue made me warm to the man, I was puzzled by the assertion that he would take the tube to Piccadilly Circus from west London every morning. That would mean a good 15-minute walk to work. Surely it would have made much more sense to take the Central Line to Tottenham Court Road station, which is a mere matter of yards from Soho Square. If “Svennis” really does have a worse sense of direction than Tord, as he claims, it’s a miracle he manages to find his way to a different Premiership ground every week.
Paul Jordan, London W8

Dear WSC
Just recently, Andy Townsend used the technology available in his tactics truck to inform us that Michael Owen was “really quick”. This is one of many useful observations that the former Ireland international has made lately. I hope that Sven-Goran Eriksson is taping the show as it will surely help to enhance his knowledge of available English talent. In coming weeks I have a feeling that Andy may be telling us the following: Emile Heskey is powerful, David Beckam’s got a good right foot and Martin Keown is an overly aggressive clod. So I’ve now saved you the trouble of having to watch that terrible programme – enjoy your Saturday night out instead.
Tim Lewis, Peacehaven

From WSC 178 December 2001. What was happening this month

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