Until recently I have always assumed your articles to be generally well researched. However, your feature on the east midlands (WSC 160) falls somewhat short of the mark. The fact that Simon Tyers thinks “the heightened sense of local rivalry that exists between the west midlands clubs isn’t replicated further east” shows he has neither spoken to many supporters of Forest or Derby, nor, it would appear, has he ever been in attendance when the teams have met.To fans of both Forest and Derby the rivalry is as intense as any in England. The common media fallacy that “east midlands fans are not passionate” is both boring and untrue. Equally lazy is the suggestion that there isn’t sufficient “geographical closeness”. A visit to the area would reveal that Nottingham and Derby are more or less joined by an ever growing urban conurbation and a fluid workforce.The writer tries several times to compare unfavourably the traditions and rivalries of the east midlands with that of the west, particularly Wolves and West Brom (perhaps betraying his loyalties). He also tries some spurious argument about levels of support being related to the amount of heavy industry in a region. However I would suggest that the trophy cabinets of the east have had far more use than their Black Country counterparts over the last 30 years – and The Hawthorns doesn’t seem to be packed to the rafters with 30,000 foundry workers every fortnight, does it? As a Notts-born Forest fan, who has lived in Derby for 20 years, it is ironic that I find Derby supporter Alistair Hewitt’s view closest to the truth. He at least recognises the rivalries that exist. But then local knowledge will always be better than drawing on media misinformation and the same old predictable references. Who knows, maybe someone, someday will write about the east midlands without feeling the urge to keep referring to Brian Clough.
N Salmon, Stretton
Well done on an excellent article on Notts County in WSC 160. It is rare indeed that we get such fair treatment, particularly if you have to suffer the pages of the Nottingham Evening Post, whose bias against the club is of amazing proportions. One slight point if I may. Our club is not called “County”. Its official name is the “Notts Incorporated Football Club Ltd” and its original name (which was never actually changed) is “Nottinghamshire”. You will never hear a Notts fan refer to the club as “County” but always “Notts”, “Notts County” or “The Pies” (occasionally “Magpies” but increasingly less so). The only people who refer to “County” are people from outside the area or patronising F-worders who do it to irritate or because they don’t know any better.
Thanks for an excellent read.
Steve Westby, co-editor, The Pie
Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger has got it all wrong (Football Myths, WSC 160). German teams are not known for being lucky. Their catalogue of unfortunate World Cup defeats (1966, 1982, 1986) disproves that. No, the Germans’ greater crime is their annoying habit of knocking the most attractive and deserving teams out of international tournaments. To name but a few, in 1954 they denied the magnificent Magyars their rightful place in the list of World Cup winners. In 1974 they beat the great “total football” team of Cruyff etc. In 1982 they put paid to a gloriously skilful and exciting French team in the semis.Beating those teams was not a matter of luck and no one could deny that Germany deserve a great deal of the success they have enjoyed. They were admirable victories gained through discipline, resilience and a formidable level of organisation. But for neutrals and football romantics everywhere, they were deeply annoying. The triumph of the machine over the artist.
That is why, despite their recent run of poor form, I am scanning my WSC Euro 2000 wallchart looking for teams who can stop them getting to the final.
Michael Stephenson, via email
Although, like all away fans, I am relieved that Selhurst Park is now off the Premiership itinerary, Wimbledon’s relegation is not a cause for rejoicing. Their ability to stick two fingers up at the big clubs, with no ground and minimal support and facilities, should be an inspiration to every club in the country. I think the reason Wimbledon’s relegation was greeted by a mixture of indifference and glee is because they broke the unwritten pact between the big boys and the underdogs. Clubs like Charlton, Barnsley and Watford generally played attractive football in an unthreatening way, made lots of friends on the way (mainly because they were regarded as points in the bag), got patronised to the roof tops by the media and kept their side of the bargain by being promptly relegated. Coping with reality after the “miracle” is all a bit dour and serious when the dream is replaced by the daily grind of hanging on to what you’ve got; even more so if you happen to win a Cup final against one of the “big clubs” on the way. Congratulations to Bradford, but there is a message here. Don’t expect to retain the sympathy of the media and public if you entertain ambitions beyond survival every season.
Peter Gutteridge, Nottingham
As a season ticket holder at The Valley I’m sure I remember Charlton Athletic winning the Nationwide Football League with quite a bit to spare this season (although we did try and make it a bit more interesting by not winning after March had finished). I definitely recall Mark Kinsella waggling the trophy at The Valley crowd after our triumphant 3-1 defeat to Ipswich Town, and I know I couldn’t have been dreaming because neither a reformed Lovin’ Spoonful nor Nicole Kidman were anywhere to be seen. Imagine my surprise to discover that according to the media Manchester City somehow occupied all three promotion places. Oh well, another six points off Palace next season it is for us then.
Charlie Connelly, Bexleyheath
Although the photograph used in your Bigger Picture slot in WSC 160 is excellent, perhaps the caption could be expanded to provide the fuller picture. Prior to the Burnley v Orient match, a senior police officer from the local constabulary came into the away dressing room and informed Orient manager Frank Clark that should the Os steal all the points that afternoon, he would “not be able to guarantee the safety of the Orient players and fans”. As it was, a few Orient players received a clump during the pitch invasion that your photo shows (perhaps for having the temerity to score first). Is there a second picture showing the southern softies legging it out of town sharpish?
Dave Winter, Paris
I took enormous pleasure from seeing the Burnley fans shown in The Bigger Picture (WSC 160). Not, of course, from their obvious joy at avoiding the drop into the Conference, but from observing the hapless fashions which existed (and presumably still do) in that part of Lancashire. With an unholy mixture of white socks, inadequately-soled Taiwanese training shoes and, heaven help us, cap-sleeved T-shirts, their collective sartorial bacon was saved only by the discerning young chap in the left foreground, sporting a rather appealing Morriseyesque Paisley patterned shirt.
Martin Callaghan, Wakefield
Sorry to be painfully pedantic, but in response to Nigel Ball (WSC 160), surely “Tango Stars” would be Argentinian players, with those from Spain “Flamenco Stars”? Besides, it’s not the prefix “Samba” but rather the postfix “Star” that makes a mockery of Juninho’s current dancing footballer status.
Sid Lowe, Sheffield
Knowing your zeal for campaigning against the rising waves of stupidity threatening to engulf the game, could I be the first to alert you and your readers to a new and insidious threat? I first became aware of this phenomenon during ITV’s coverage of the second leg of the Barcelona v Valencia Champions League semi-final. Listening to Clive Tyldesley’s commentary I became convinced that there were in fact three teams participating in the game: Valencia, Barcelona and Manchester United. I thought this might just be a one-off, until I watched the final and there it was again. Definitely three teams taking part: Valencia, Real Madrid and Manchester United. As the game progressed and Real’s victory became more certain, Valencia almost dropped out of the story. If you don’t believe me, get a copy of the match on tape and count how often CT mentions MU. It seems to me there are three possible explanations and they are not necessarily exclusive of each other: a) Sepp Blatter’s next big wheeze will be to introduce triangular matches; b) the next stage in United’s plan to dominate world soccer involves them participating in every match everywhere in the world; c) Clive Tyldesley is a raving United fan. I think we should be told.
While we are on the subject of commentators, how bad is Bobby Gould?
Paul Smith, via email
With regard to my article on Sheffield Wednesday’s decline (WSC 159) and the inopportune timing of its publication, I would like to apologise to anyone who was offended by the references to death within the piece. This was not in any way intentional and if I had taken a more objective view, then I would not have written it in that particular style. However, when it comes to writing about the club you love, then rationality often goes out of the window. For me the issue was simple, the club I love is “dying” in footballing terms: the crowds are down, the football is of a poor quality and the management of the club is failing to address either of these problems. I suspect that sometimes we forget that football should never be more serious than life or death, but, in mitigation, it often seems that it is.
Graham Lightfoot, Sheffield
As a long time reader of WSC and a Northern Ireland exile living in Scotland, I have often enjoyed articles by Davy Millar. However, I felt that his piece about the Irish League in WSC 160 was excessively negative. Davy lambasts Irish League fans as “bloody-minded groups of people who wouldn’t recognise a lost cause if it stared them in the face”. Surely, however, this is an attribute, as would be confirmed by supporters of lower division clubs in England and Scotland, not to mention all of the League of Wales (which suffers from much lower crowds). It is people like these who keep their clubs going in the hope that one day they can experience the success that glory-hunting Man Utd fans and their ilk would seek to monopolise. The contention that the Northern Ireland league is only a step above pub level is insulting. The top Irish League teams could easily compete in the Scottish First Division and would probably survive in the English Second. I have see Linfield run Panathinaikos close in the European Cup and put on many other creditable performances in Europe. Why shouldn’t they and others aspire to a spot in the limelight? I’ll take Davy’s word for it that gates are down again this year but I’ve been at recent Linfield v Glentoran games watched by more than 10,000, and I can think of many clubs in Scotland that would kill for crowds like that, not to mention Linfield’s facilities.
With a population base of 1.5 million, the Irish League has no chance of producing clubs capable of competing with the G14 teams but it has a lot to commend it, not least the loyal fans Davy Millar demeans. Many other leagues are in the same boat, if not worse.
Colin Dunn, Falkirk
Have you noticed how you can never tell who he is talking about until he reaches the end of the sentence, Ron Atkinson?
John Graham, Cardiff
From WSC 161 July 2000. What was happening this month