THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Why is Juninho (and any other Brazilian for that matter) referred to as a “samba star”? We don’t call Spanish players “tango stars” or Italians “tarantella stars”. Dennis Bergkamp has never been a “clog dance star” and I haven’t heard Everton fans heralding Joe-Max Moore as their new “hoedown star”. I wonder what foreign journalists call English players. “Morris dance stars” perhaps?
Nigel Ball, Middlesbrough

Dear WSC,
Another pedant writes. Although sport and politics aren’t supposed to mix, the Local Government Act of 1972 resulted in Stockport being in Greater Manchester and Tranmere in Merseyside. Therefore in response to Robert  Bracegirdle (Letters, WSC 159), the Cheshire team most likely to dominate Europe are in fact my old home town team... the mighty Crewe Alexandra.
Andrew Brown, Hampton

Dear WSC
This may deserve a place in “pedants corner” but as a wretched former PM once said, no,no,no. Your north east focus (WSC 159) stated that Newcastle were the last NE side to win the title in 1927. Tsk, Tsk. Any supporter formerly known as a “Mackem” (now with the rather embarrassing sobriquet “Black Cat”) will tell you that it was indeed Sunderland who were the last NE conquerors, in 1936. May I also contend that they were the last team to win the title wearing a striped shirt as a first choice kit... I think.
Andy Hay, via email

Dear WSC
Whatever happened to Johnny Metgod? Is he still fetching the ball after that free-kick for Forest? It definitely went through the net.
Daniel Pallett, Worcester

Dear WSC

As a Newcastle United supporter, I read with keen interest the article on the north east region in WSC 159. Joe Boyle’s contribution on the so-called “gulf” between Newcastle and Sunderland in how they treat their supporters, although well written, misses the point. Perhaps not surprisingly, the views of the Newcastle “Save Our Seats” campaigners were cited as evidence that such a gulf exists. The anecdote about the Newcastle supporting father and Sunderland supporting mother, whose children apparently support Sunderland, can hardly be extrapolated into New­­castle losing a “whole generation of supporters” over the seats dispute. A child’s first live game plays a huge part in determining which club he/she will go on to support for the rest of his/her life. The recent on-the-pitch history of Newcastle and Sunderland has been such that it has been far more difficult to get tickets for St James’ Park than either Roker Park or the Stadium of Light. Could this perhaps be why the children alluded to wear red and white shirts? Joe Boyle goes on to make the common mistake of classing football supporters as “customers”. Newcastle fans, like many others, have become used to shoddy treatment over the years. If we were customers we would have hung up or exchanged our black and white scarves well before the now infamous remarks from our directors about Geor­die wom­­en and replica shirts. The bottom line is that if you are from Tyneside or Wearside, generally spea­k­ing you will be either a “Mag” or a “Mackem” respectively. There are, of course, some exceptions to this rule. Every work­place in the north east has its smug Man Utd or Liverpool fan. However, such supporters are, by and large, disregarded as insignificant in the north east. I am pleased to confirm that the fierce rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland fans is alive and kicking and, despite the PR gulf, there is no mass switching of allegiance by Tynesiders of any generation to Sunderland AFC.
Alastair Lambie, Chester-le-Street

Dear WSC

Mike Woitalla points out (WSC 159) that the 35-yard line used in Major League Soccer is indeed a novel pitch marking, but it should be remembered that a similar marking used to adorn each and every Subbuteo pitch. I never bothered to find out the rules that related to this marking as I felt it may inhibit my ability to express myself fully on the field of play. Introducing Cruyff’s vision of total football into a Subbuteo context was difficult enough without the burden of additional bureaucracy to stifle flair and creativity.
Anthony Pope, Brighton

Dear WSC

In And Who Are You Exactly? (WSC 158), Neville Hadsley refers with great glee to Coventry selling George Boa­­teng to Aston Villa for a “vastly inflated price”. It would be interesting to know what transfer value Neville would put on Boateng after his storming form of the last three months. In case his memory has failed him, Boateng is the player who ran the midfield in Villa’s latest win against Coventry. And what a jawbone, too, as the useless thug Gascoigne found out to his cost.
Dave Collett, Chesterfield

Dear WSC

I enjoyed reading Cris Freddi’s article about Norwich’s UEFA Cup run in 1993 (WSC 159). However, I am amused by English football fans continuing to delude themselves that successful English club sides should somehow equal a successful English national side. While Freddi admits that the underrated Crook and Butterworth probably would not have made much difference against the Dutch in 1993 because, unlike Norwich, England played with little system or plan, he fails to point out that virtually all English sides that are successful in Europe are not made up exclusively of English players. I realise this is not a new phenomenon. The great Liverpool and Forest teams and Manchester Un­ited’s European winners of 1968 and 1999 had a fair quota of non-English players. However, people who should know better still wonder why club success is not converted into international success. To illustrate this point, the Norwich v Bayern game featured goals scor­ed by Welshmen, Mark Bowen and Jeremy Goss, with a Scotsman, Bryan Gunn, saving the day from Adolfo Valencia. Successful club sides never have and never will guarantee a successful national side. Surely the past 32 years have taught you that?
Mike Daley, Swansea

Dear WSC

While I wholly endorse Matt Nation’s debunking of the “Goalkeepers are mad” football myth (WSC 158) one memory from my childhood still troubles me. Older readers may recall ITV’s The Big Match occasionally treating us by screening hilarious football incidents which had been captured by television cameras throughout the world. Am I the only person who remembers the (European?) goalkeeper who, when confronted by a duck (mallard?) in his penalty area, crept steadily towards it before diving full length in an attempt to catch it? I mean, what the hell was he hoping to do with it had he caught it?
Alex Witts, Cottingham

Dear WSC

Couldn’t let your Football Myths in WSC 158 pass without comment. Matt Nation’s attack on the theory that goalkeepers are mad curiously omits to ­mention the Colombian René Hig­­uita, who was surely barking. A close friend of drug baron Pablo Escobar, he could only have come out of Colombia – a country prepared to forgive any num­ber of laughable errors for the occas­ional moment of sublime extravagance. To be fair to him it was actually part of the strategy of his coaches both at club and national level to have him double as a sweeper. But for René even this was too restrictive. Colombian hearts still beat fast at the memory of his insane dashes down the wing. He was a superb taker, not just of penalties but also of free kicks. The abiding memory of Higuita for most British fans is probably his scorpion kick at Wembley in 1995. But I have another: the 1990 World Cup, René at full pelt, greased King Charles ringlets streaming in the breeze behind him, desperately trying to scythe Roger Milla’s legs away having lost the ball on the half-way line. He failed. Milla scored. Colombia went out of the World Cup. Truly bonkers.
Richard Sanders, via email

Dear WSC
Have you noticed how David Beckham has begun to have a go at opponents after waiting for Roy Keane to start on them first? It reminds me of those women who stand behind their boyfriends squawking, “Are you going to let him get away with talking to me like that? Go on, hit him.” And what a lovely couple they make.
Chris Front, Redcar

Dear WSC

Stephen Poxon asks (Letters, WSC 158) why Man City sacked Tony Book when he “was doing good things”. In fact Book must be held at least partially responsible for a decline which even by City standards was rapid and traumatic. The City side that missed out on the championship by a single point in 1977 was arguably better than the one that won it nine years earlier. Book’s team had a towering keeper (Corrigan), a solid, reliable defence (Watson, Doyle), brilliant creative players (Barnes, Hartford, Owen) and a free-scoring strike force (Tueart, Royle, Kidd). The future, too, seemed secure. In 1976 City won the League Cup. The side that thrashed Middlesbrough 4-0 in the semi-final contained only two players bought from other clubs, the remaining nine all products of a superb youth policy. However, after peaking in 1976-77 City couldn’t seem to find that little bit extra that would have brought in the ­trophies. Book began to make dodgy signings – Kaziu Deyna, well past his best by 1978; Paul Futcher, plus obligatory brother Ron; Mike Channon. Then Malcolm Allison arrived and everything went crazy. Steve Daley, £1.5 million; Michael Robinson, £750,000; Steve Mac­Kenzie, £250,000. Stuart Lee from Stockport County replaced Peter Bar­nes. Barry Silkman came in for the peerless Gary Owen. Players who were no better than average wilted under the massive expectation. By 1980 Peter Swales had had en­ough. He sacked both Book and Allison and brought in John Bond whose team of battlers and journeymen scrapped their way to League safety (for a while). The flair had gone, though, and we haven’t seen it since, apart from the occasional flash of magic in the days of Kinkladze. So, Book’s sacking was hardly unusual – it followed a long run of poor results and some astonishingly bad transfers. Many City fans will tell you we’re still paying the price for those days of madness. The question remains, though – was Book to blame, or Allison, or Swales?
Ged Cassell, via email

Dear WSC
Congratulations on your insensitivity in WSC 159. Absolutely nothing wrong in publishing Graham Lightfoot’s article on Sheffield Wednesday’s poor season, but did you not stop to consider that it might be a bit tasteless to include such references as “the post mortem at the end of the 1999-2000 season will reveal that the cause of Sheffield Wed­nesday’s death was obvious” and then “For the most part the stadium that can hold 40,000 has been a veritable morgue this season”, followed immediately by “Unsurprisingly it is Peter Shreeves who is charged with trying to spark the corpse into life for the remaining games”? Football writers have always been guilty of turning mistakes and losing games into “disasters” and “tragedies” but surely the wording of the article was out of order when you consider that it would be appearing in the  month when some of us are reminded of the hurt of the losses at Hillsborough. Perhaps I’m just a tad touchy as I happen to read the article this morning, April 15, but on the other hand I must admit to being very disappointed that a usually thoughtful publication let this pass through.
NM Jones, Pwllheli

* We would like to apologise to anyone who was offended by the wording of the article referred to. In hindsight it obviously should have been expressed differently

From WSC 160 June 2000. What was happening this month

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