In WSC 157 there appeared an advertisement for a new book about Reading FC entitled Rusting Tin & Shiny Plastic. I feel obliged to point out that, although tin can certainly corrode, the only metal that actually rusts is iron. Clearly the “football cultural revolution” in Berkshire has failed to bring a knowledge of basic chemistry to the area. Tsk.
Eddie Edwards, via email
I would like to complain about all the sympathy the “once proud” Aberdeen seem to be getting. They are, in fact, one of the luckiest clubs around. Cast your minds back to 1994-95. After a terrible season the Dons finished in second-bottom ninth place. For the previous three seasons that meant automatic relegation. This season, however, there was a play-off with the second placed First Division team. This effectively saved Aberdeen from the drop. The following season they regained some respectability by claiming their first trophy in five years – the League Cup – which was handed to them by a sub-standard Dundee side who showed nothing of their form of previous rounds. So to this season. Even if Aberdeen finish bottom they have only to enter a round robin play-off versus the second and third placed teams in the First. To go down, they would have to finish bottom of this group. That is, only if the top three in the First have “suitable stadia” to enter the SPL. If not there is no relegation. At the time of writing Falkirk are third with a ground that is, frankly, a dump. If that wasn’t enough Aberdeen find themselves in the League Cup final again having dumped out a Rangers XI and, in the semis, Dundee Utd side who were in a slump, needless to say. So to the Scottish Cup where Aberdeen will surely receive a lesson from Celtic once they have knocked out Inverness. Oh... If anyone even thinks of shedding any tears for the Dons just think of the breaks they have had over the last few years.
Kristofer Scrimgeour, Dundee
Michael Palin’s recent mention of the Tommy Steele Showbiz XI (WSC 156) reminded me of a charity match at Tonbridge that I attended around 1969-70. One of the teams featured Don Thompson, at that time still fondly remembered from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a long-distance walking gold medallist who had trained in his bathroom to prepare for the heat and humidity. Presumably years of dedication had left him either psychologically or physically unable to abandon that curious stiff-legged, backside-protruding gait adopted by all long-distance walkers – a style of locomotion necessary for his chosen event but patently unsuitable for the football field. Anyway, within a few minutes of the kick-off it became evident to my friends and I that we were going to gain just as much enjoyment from watching Don as we would from the match itself. For the remainder of the game we followed his progress about the pitch with that mixture of cruel glee and horrid fascination particular to small boys. To give Don his due, he did try to join in. Whenever the ball came within reasonable walking distance he would stride determinedly after it (taking care, of course, to keep one foot on the ground at all times), only to find, when he got there, that it was heading swiftly somewhere else in the possession of an opponent or an impatient team-mate. He did, I remember, manage one five-yard stroll with the ball at his feet, but that was about it and for the most part the match passed him by. Imagine my sense of déjà vu when witnessing some of Neil Ruddock’s performances for West Ham this season.
Graham Wakeford, Tunbridge Wells
Last night I had a terrible dream. Charles Hughes had been appointed manager of Tranmere. They were playing in a cup match against a back-to-basics Wimbledon. This new Wimbledon had a throw-in specialist of their own. The players lumbered out onto the pitch and the game went something like this: kick-off; ball on half-way out by the touch line; kick against midfield player’s shins; throw-in; ball into area; huge ruck; keeper saves; long ball; huge ruck; boot ball to safety on half-way line; throw-in; ball into area; huge ruck; keeper saves; even bigger ruck; kick ball so hard stadium explodes. I woke up screaming. There before me, on the TV screen, was the Leicester v Villa League Cup semi-final. I screamed again and fainted. In the morning there was a letter on the doormat. It was from the players from my nightmare suing me for non-payment of copyright fees in relation to my dream. Have any other readers had similar experiences, or is it just me?
Steve Marshall, via email
Now, has anyone else ever noticed how Ray Stubbs starts every sentence with the word “now”? Now, that’ll annoy you, like it does me, everytime you watch him on the telly...
Mat, via email
Might I briefly reply to David Hawkins’s letter in WSC 157 where he questions the veracity of my article in the previous issue concerning Jack Hayward’s involvement with Wolves? David accuses me of repeating the “myth that Jack Hayward has put a large sum of money into Wolves”. Could he then explain why and how Hayward wrote out a cheque for around £8 million a couple of years ago to pay off our overdraft? Without a personal guarantee from Hayward to underwrite our losses, no banker would have touched us in recent years. David’s assertion that Hayward has got back “most” of the “very little” money he has put into the football club from the sale of Robbie Keane (for £6 million) defies belief. I’m not sure when David last saw Wolves play, but since Keane was sold we’ve bought Akinbiyi, Ndah, Pollet, Oakes and Branch – for a total cost of, erm, around £6 million. Still, don’t let reality get in the way of a wild conspiracy theory, eh? I’ll bet Swindon and Crystal Palace fans who’ve visited Molineux this season have left thanking their lucky stars that Hayward didn’t support their team as a boy and end up as owner...
Charles Ross, Editor, A Load of Bull
As a long time season ticket holder at Crystal Palace, I read the article in WSC 157 about the world-class financial balls-up at my club with great interest, particularly the need to sell “star” players. Obviously, when you’re skint you asset strip, so I don’t mind our squad being made up predominantly of 12-year-olds as a result of our selling anything that could walk and kick a ball. What I do mind, and what I think should be outlawed in some way, is the constant hovering of vultures around the place. Several clubs have adopted the policy of waiting until a period where we haven’t got many home games to tide us over before making derisory bids for our players. These clubs know Palace cannot say no to offers, even when they are in some instances a tenth of what they should be. Ports-mouth, Charlton, Middlesbrough and Millwall are among the clubs that have attempted this daylight robbery and in some cases succeeded. The powers that be have seen fit to allow this, whilst on the other hand insisting that we cannot bring in new faces until our debts have cleared. If we got reasonable prices for our players it might help. I know that this mess is of Palace’s own making, and that we would probably do the same thing if the tables were turned, but I still feel that clubs in administration need more protection. Incidentally, all the fans from other clubs who find our current mess so funny should bear in mind that these things come and go in cycles. When they next need a “fans day” to help their club stay alive, they should not be too surprised to see people in red and blue shirts telling them to f*** off.
Anthony Knight, Croydon
While appreciating the much deserved credit given in WSC 157 to Stockport County for their community work and continued high position in the First Division despite having very limited finacial resources, I must draw your attention to one glaring mistake in the article. The assumption that SCFC supporters are carrying torches for one of the “Big Two” is very much mistaken. Our numbers may not be as many but our passion and devotion to the cause are just as partisan as anything Maine Road has to offer, and far surpasses the atmosphere generated at Old Trafford’s shopping complex.
Steven Lewis, via email
In WSC 157 Ken Gall states that in the 1978 World Cup Scotland were “a good outside bet to reach the semi-finals”. He must have had a strange bookie because semi-finals were not held that year, which is why Argentina had to send all that money to Peru to reach the final. Ken’s memory is even more ropey on those “players of real quality” Bruce Rioch and Don Masson; both men were in severe decline, having peaked in Derby’s 1975 title side before sliding downhill. The truth is that Scotland had a better side in 1982 (Miller, Hansen, Strachan, Narey) but were drawn in a tougher group. And Peru, with “world class” Cubillas, didn’t score a single goal in the second stage (conceding ten) after putting three past Alan Rough. Like Ally McLeod, it appears that Ken Gall did not do enough homework before embarking on his 1978 assignment.
Jon Harrison, York
As someone who has supported Manchester City for the past 26 years (and been immensely proud to do so), one question has haunted me. Why did City ever sack Tony Book as manager? Does anyone out there know? It strikes me that our recent ills (now being heroically reversed by Joe Royle) can be traced back to Book’s sacking, at a time when he was doing good things. I can even recall City beating Juventus 1-0 at Maine Road under his management. Theories would be much appreciated. The question has niggled far too long. I need the truth.
Stephen Poxon, via email
From WSC 158 April 2000. What was happening this month