THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
I have read and reread your comment in Newswatch (WSC 254) that “almost every­where else in the football world, the tackle is largely considered a last resort” just to make sure that it wasn’t a misprint. If I have nothing else to do on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening, I may just watch the utterly compelling drama that I’m told is the Champions League. I see any number of ugly, mistimed and malicious challenges and plenty of good honest physical challenges. The idea that everyone else in the world is neatly passing in balletic patterns while we clog seven shades out of each other doesn’t withstand any sort of scrutiny. Furthermore, let’s not forget one other thing. We love tackling in this country. The one thing guaranteed to get a crowd going during a dull game is someone deciding to crunch in with a couple of hefty challenges. Pardon us for being unreconstructed, but it’s an intrinsic part of a game whose charm is that it combines skill and grace with physical prowess.And the cause of all of this breast-­beating ? The collective assaults of Keane, Rooney, Carvalho, Gerrard and Essien as they jump into challenges with both feet off the ground and their eyes not looking at the ball? Oh, no. An incompetent, mistimed tackle, ending with disastrous results, from a player who has made only a handful of Premiership appearances – because he’s not very good. It ill behoves a publication like yours to jump on this particular bandwagon – and, incidentally, there is no “reinvention”: his nickname has always been “Tiny”, it has been a constant source of irritation to Birmingham fans that a man with his build never “puts himself about” and the fact that he’s studying for a degree should be something of an example to be applauded rather than the object of the sneering dismissiveness you afford him.There may be plenty of things wrong with the game at the top level, but to put Martin Taylor’s tackle at the centre of the argument is to miss the point.
Jon Berry, St Albans

* Though there was room for confusion, the reference to Taylor being “reborn” referred to his being cast as “a victim”, rather than the perpetrator, using those facts.

Dear WSC
After Newcastle’s 3-0 defeat at Liverpool last month, I noticed the so-called messiah Kevin Keegan came out with the standard cliche muttered by many struggling teams after yet another dismal performance. Referring to Liverpool’s admittedly flukey opening goal, Keegan moaned: “We needed that bit of luck, not them. We could have done with that break, but when you are not getting results, things like that go against you.”I wonder if there has been any research into whether struggling teams actually do get less luck than those at the top? Surely the question answers itself – when you aren’t very good, you don’t create as many chances, so you don’t score as many lucky goals. Similarly, as you’re defending a lot, then you’re bound to let some lucky goals in.
James Burdett, Sheffield

Dear WSC
I can understand Matt Johnson’s belief that midlanders deserve their geographically specific form of abuse (Letters, WSC 253) but I can assure him it’s all relative. A few years back I attended a packed east Kent derby between Margate and Dover Athletic in a rare (for both teams) Conference clash on Boxing Day at Hartsdown Park. With just ten minutes gone, a Margate “defender” scythed down an opponent and up went the inevitable cry from the Dover fans of “you dirty northern bastards”.As Margate is 20 miles north of Dover this is, of course, strictly speaking correct unless (and here I take my position in Pedants’ Corner) they were actually singing “you dirty Northern bastards”, in which case they were not. In any event, are Margate the most southerly team in England to be accused (if that’s the right word) of being northerners?
Michael Green, St Albans

Dear WSC
When Chris Taylor stated in Junior Show Time (WSC 254) that “bulky striker” Manuel “Junior” Agogo had never played at a level higher than the third division he was in fact quite correct. It was a much more svelte version of the striker who I recall playing Premier League football in the late Nineties for Sheffield Wednesday. After three seasons in the reserves, averaging 19 goals a year, he got his chance under David Pleat. He made his debut at St James’ Park as a substitute in the first game of 1997-98 and managed only one more appearance at that level. In fact, general opinion around Hillsborough at that time thought that his lack of presence might be the one thing that prevented him from making the grade at that level. There was talk that Ghana had made a number of overtures about him playing for them, but Junior had turned them down. Wednesday, under Danny Wilson, obviously thought he showed promise as, after a number of successful loan stays at various clubs, they offered him a three-year contract, which he turned down to move to America with his family.
Graham Lightfoot, Marazion, Cornwall

Dear WSC
It was good to see Roy Keane returning to the bygone era of good old-fashioned values such as timekeeping and punctuality when placing Liam Miller on the transfer list. This journey back in time (useful in Miller’s case) has a neat synergy with the goal celebrations at the Stadium of Light, where yet another season has passed with each home goal being celebrated with at least half a dozen supporters clearly on the pitch, often celebrating with the scorer himself, as if the year were 1968 rather than 2008. Clearly this routine is de rigueur at Sunderland, such that neither the club, their stewards nor the FA can be bothered even to raise a comment, let alone an inquiry or a charge. Perhaps this goes on regularly at the other 19 Premier League grounds and I’ve just overlooked it.
Phil Greaves, Birmingham

Dear WSC
While reading the article about the French Championnat of 1975-76 (Season in Brief, WSC 254) I was intrigued by how the bonus points worked and was going to inquire until I read the final sentences of “Disappearing from View”. Then I noticed that Nice and Sochaux (second and third respectively) seemed to have identical records (including bonus points) yet were separated by a point in the table. I decided to investigate myself and duly found the relevant table (above) at rsssf.com/tablesf/franfullhist.html You will notice that there are some differences in total points, partly as a result of playing 38 games (as you would expect in a 20-team league) rather than the 36 in the WSC article.
Chris Barltrop, Reading

* Unfortunately, the relevant Rothmans Football Yearbook contains a table from before the end of the season. Apologies.

Dear WSC
The discussions about “was the commentator there or did he record the commentary after” may have died down, but I’d like to dig them up again and give them the kiss of life with that mixed metaphor.Watching the BBC’s live FA Cup quarter-finals, it was if the commentators were speaking for a recording that would be played later, not a live match. I think Jonathan Pearce said “Is this the defining moment of this tie?” at least 88 times in one game, just missing out on saying it before the two goals, which he obviously didn’t see coming. Surely, the role of the commentator is to let us know what is happening, not to appear to be a Derek Acorah-like being, who can commune with the dead and see the future? These new guys spend most of their time trying to let us know how smart they are. They are not. Though Lawro was. When asked by Motson if he could explain the giant-killing this year, he could have waxed lyrically on about the magic of the Cup, that two teams on the day blah-blah-blah, but he didn’t. He just replied “no” to Motson’s question, which left a delicious silence for a couple of minutes. Anyone who can do that to Motson should be knighted, even if Lawro is, for footballing purposes, Irish.
Len Horridge, Leeds

Dear WSC
Nathan Clifford (Letters, WSC 253) is right to point out Roy Hodgson’s bizarrely anachronistic Oh, Mr Porter! diction. Conversely, many footballers, of all ethnic origins, seem to have adopted the faux-gangsta street patois that was unheard of 30 years ago. Players such as Joe Cole, with traditional Cockney vowels, are now a real rarity. I particularly enjoy the fusion accents of “London-schooled” foreigners such as Robert Huth and Jérémie Aliadière.
Peter Lawson, via email

Dear WSC
Robert Jeffery’s piece in WSC 254 on the return of Wimbledon FC memorabilia to the London Borough of Merton betrays a certain reluctance to confront an uncomfortable truth. The relocation of Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes was an outrage. But it does not follow that the club now known as MK Dons is a separate entity from Wimbledon FC. There was continuity of ownership, personnel and League status between the former Wimbledon and the present MK Dons. AFC Wimbledon, formed in 2002, have a popular and moral claim to Wimbledon FC’s history. But, awkwardly, that history is actually the history of MK Dons. It is not “shameful” of the MK Dons matchday programme to list Wimbledon’s honours – provided it is made clear that those honours were won by the club in their previous guise. AFC Wimbledon cannot proclaim those honours because they did not exist when they were won.The compromise of displaying the memorabilia in Morden Library is therefore more honest than (as Mr Jeffery would prefer) housing them at AFC Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow home. The whole situation is deeply unsatisfactory – but if you can’t change an unsatisfactory situation, then surely it’s better to accept it than to pretend the situation is somehow different.
Mark Bravery, London SW19

Dear WSC
Gavin Barber’s The View from the Championship (WSC 254) was excellent, particularly his comments about the true soul of the game residing outside the corporate obscenity of the Premier League. His view was reinforced by two recent Radio Five phone-ins. In the first, on a rare occasion when the focus shifted away from the top clubs, fans of the “surprise” four FA Cup semi-finalists were invited to share their thoughts. All seemed genuinely elated by their teams’ achievements and were looking forward excitedly to the big day. Contrastingly, a week or so later, the focus switched back to the so-called “Big Four”. A representative fan from each was asked for their views on the “thrilling climax” to the season. Three out of the four – and it may be significant that the exception was female – quickly descended into dull, charmless “banter” at a playground level: “Cor, just wait till you come dahn The Bridge, mate.” The impression was of people so sated by success that they’re not even sure what they want to win any more.
Charlie Adamson, Huddersfield

Dear WSC
David Johnston (Letters, WSC 254) has me bang to rights – Jock Stein did know of the instances of child abuse at Celtic Boys Club in the Seventies, as we all did when they came to light. I apologise for my failure to realise the Rangers fans around me who sing this song (On The Offensive, WSC 253) are simply highlighting an extraneous point of legal fact. There’s obviously no argument for claiming the sentiment behind this chant is slanderous and I await the same level of forensic analysis being applied, in song of course, to every other publicised paedophile case since the Jim Torbett affair.Of course I remember the disgusting songs visiting fans have sung at Ibrox, as highlighted by Mr Johnston. However, instead of reacting in kind, I simply decided these offensive chants brought shame on the people who sang them and the club they supported. That’s a shame I never want applied to me or Rangers.Traditionally, Rangers fans kept our own house in order first and foremost. We were all about letting the sick jibes of people in glass houses bounce off Ibrox’s red-brick edifice. When you’re as big as Rangers you set a dignified example rather than replicate gutter behaviour. That’s the club I grew up with, anyway. Mr Johnston seems to have missed me writing “we want to know why we had to edit our song sheet but no one else did”. He’s also painfully oblivious to my defence of the putrid attacks against our “We are the people” chant and the red fold on our socks. Yet if he’s so busy miring himself in the sickening behaviour of others, as some perverse examplar of how well Rangers fans behave, it’s little wonder he’s missing the wider picture.
Alex Anderson, Glasgow

Dear WSC
Tristan Browning (Letters, WSC 254) has, I’m afraid, missed the point of my previous letter. Liverpool refused Luton’s request to be given the proceeds of the team’s FA Cup match before the tie was played. They would not have expected to draw. My point wasn’t the amount of money Luton would get, but the fact that one of the richest clubs refused to give a helping hand to a more lowly one which was fighting to survive, whatever happened to have caused their plight. (I thought Tristan might have guessed I support Fulham.)
Eva Tenner, London W12

From WSC 255 May 2008

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