THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
I don’t normally read your magazine as I have no interest in football. However I wanted to read your article about Paul Gascoigne (Crying Shame, WSC 257) and found it very poignant. If I was in a position to help Mr Gascoigne (as obviously he needs this urgently), I would suggest he gets himself an allotment. It’s not as flippant a suggestion as it sounds. As long as he manages to avoid somewhere like Hampstead, he’ll find himself surrounded by solid, down-to-earth people, which is what he needs right now. He’ll be able to use his physical strength, which will be good for his mental health. He’ll be working outdoors and taking part in an activity that is so far removed from the fickle world of the sycophants that have helped drag him down it can only do him good. I hope I don’t sound too patronising, because I have his best interests at heart.
Victoria Lofas, Stockport

Dear WSC,
In WSC 257, the text with your picture of Torquay United players and manager (Shot! Archive) points out that Robin Stubbs was married to Anthea Redfern, later to become Mrs Bruce Forsyth. What you fail to mention is that Eric Burgess, also in frame, married her sister Lisa. In 1975, in a testimonial for Eric at Lower Mead, between Wealdstone (then in the Southern League Premier) and Wolves (managed by Eric’s former manager from Ipswich, Bill McGarry), a crowd of 5,000 saw Bruce Forsyth kick off and a cameo appearance from Jimmy Greaves.
John Morton, London W1

Dear WSC
Tim Springett’s analysis of the 2007-08 Championship (WSC 257) notes that “Colchester never recovered from the loss of Chris Iwelumo and Jamie Cureton”. Even the briefest of glances at the league tables will show we were joint sixth highest scorers with 62 goals, as good as or better than Bristol City, Palace and Watford in the top six, and more importantly only eight fewer than with Iwelumo and Cureton the season before. Perhaps, just maybe, those eight extra goals could have earned the points to help us scrape clear, but to be honest it’s at the other end of the park where the answer to our demise lies – you can’t argue with a Derbyesque 86 goals against, compared to just 56 previously. If Mr Springett wants to know the real reason for our relegation, then he need look no further than the departure last summer of Wayne Brown, former U’s stalwart central defender and now soon-to-be Hull Premier League central defender.
Andy Crockett, Warminster

Dear WSC
I assume that the BBC’s football producers got the idea for touchline summarisers at Euro 2008 from their Six Nations rugby union broadcasts, where cauli­flower-eared men shout about “big hits” and “tough citizens” above the din of the public-address system. But I don’t see how having a few moments of yelled conversation between Ray Stubbs and either Gordon Strachan or Marcel Desailly has helped the Euro 2008 coverage. If its main purpose was to squeeze some extra use out of contracted employees, then they should get the offensively lazy Alan Hansen out there. If he is going to receive a salary for being glib and cocky, he should at least be made to do so while standing up.
Glyn Bowers, Rochester

Dear WSC
Can I just ask – is ITV’s commentator Peter Brackley a bit Edwardian? In his summary of the opening stages of the Greece v Russia game in ITV’s highlights show, he started: “If you’ve just got in from your game of cricket or round of golf...” Peter appears to have a limited idea of the rich variation of modern leisure activity. What about those of us who’ve just come in from graffiti-ing a provincial railway station? Or wine-tasting? Or the theatre? (I myself had just come in late from the bedroom, where I had been spying on my neighbour hanging washing on her line.) The life of the 21st-century citizen is a little more varied and complex than it was in Baden-Powell’s day. Get with the programme, Peter.
Ben Wheedon, Gosport

Dear WSC
I can’t make up my mind whether or not Steve McClaren’s inclusion in Radio Five’s summarising team for Euro 2008 is some sort of deliberate blooper, like the ones you get at the end of animated movies. As if it’s not bad enough that we had to sit through the dismal Greece v Sweden match, Radio Five listeners had to contend with McClaren telling us the secret of success at the international level: move the ball around quickly and work hard on set pieces, apparently. Surely if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that the man knows next to nothing about how to do well in the international arena. Now I’m all for the rehabilitation of a failed manager – I even had a soft spot for him as a former (if limited) Oxford United midfielder – but is the very tournament that he and his squad of prima donnas could not qualify for really the place for McClaren to win back enough favour to be a contender for jobs with middling Premier League clubs again? Nobody is saying that he should spend the rest of his life hiding in a basement somewhere, but the sheer brass neck involved in him becoming a sage pundit is salt on a still smarting wound.
Matt Ford, Oxford

Dear WSC
A bit later than planned, but I would like to pass on my hearty congratulations to Carlisle United’s announcer and half-time draw specialist, Stephen Dunn, for serenading us dejected home fans out of Brunton Park, after our play-off defeat to Leeds, with The Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now. I doubt that it’s a tune that will have been heard regularly on any football ground PA system, any time in the last 24 years, but I’d have expected nothing less from one of the Carlisle music scene’s leading lights and it produced a slight grin, in the face of another season in the third tier.
Richard Weir, Carlisle

Dear WSC
In response to Olly Wicken’s letter regarding a fan’s statistical opportunity of touching a matchball (WSC 257), I have a theory: this being that football is a fickle mistress, and thus the chances of laying your mitts on the ball is inversely proportional to your desire to do so.
My evidence? When I took my (then) girlfriend to see the mighty Cowes Sports brush aside Shanklin in the 1998 Isle of Wight Senior Cup semi-final, she expressed concern that our prime position – right on the barrier – might put her in danger of being hit by the ball. I reassured her that this would never happen, but, by the time Cowes had huffed and puffed their way to a 1-0 victory, she had been hit full-force by the ball not once, but twice. Granted, the wayward clearances at this level may increase the likelihood of a spectator/ball interface, but even so, I think the evidence is pretty irrefutable. We clung on together for another year or so, but even as I celebrated the victory I could tell that things would never be the same between us. The trust was gone, you see.
Toby Collard, Cowes

Dear WSC
Rod Kiniston (WSC 257) is right about Ray Wilkins yelling “Gimme that fackin’ bawl!” on live television. It’s unlikely that the ball-boy understood, however, as Ray was playing for England against Chile in Santiago, part of a South American tour in June 1984. Unusually for the time, the games were shown live. Ray’s colourful language was the highlight of a 0-0 draw.
John Gibson, Cullercoats

*Thanks to everyone who wrote in on this topic, which is now closed.

Dear WSC
While I used to share Matthew Rudd’s scorn for club kit that bears the wearer’s initials (Letters, WSC 257) my eyes were opened when I had the chance to observe a Premier League club’s laundry operating at peak capacity. Asking “whose d’you reckon this is?” 120 times a day would drive the most placid kit manager to physical violence. The question of why the hell Rupert Lowe needed his own training kit, mono­grammed or otherwise, in his first spell as Southampton chairman, on the other hand, remains as valid as ever.
Jeffrey Prest, Wisbech

Dear WSC
With reference to Matthew Rudd’s letter regarding manager’s initials on their club provided training wear, has anyone else noticed that Doncaster Rovers’ promotion-winning manager Sean O’Driscoll appears to have mysteriously dropped the “O” from his gear? It subsequently bears only the initials “SD”. I really can’t imagine why this should be, perhaps some enlightened Roverite can provide the answer?
Paul Gayler, Doncaster

Dear WSC
2 Unlimited may not go down in history for their contribution to pop culture, or indeed much else. However, they do provide the tune that further disproves John Rooney’s (Letters, WSC 256) theory that Tranmere Physio Les Parry is alone in having his own chant. Wrexham fan’s often air the ditty “Melvin, Melvin Melvin, Melvin Melvin, Melvin Melvin Pejic” to the tune of the aforementioned’s classic No Limit. He may not be the fastest physio in the land, but with his graceful moustache, permanent short wearing, and occasional touchline aggression towards the opposition dugout, he is, in my opinion the ultimate cult physio.
Philip Davies, Wrexham

From WSC 258 August 2008

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