THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Now that the so-called “Premiership” has reverted to being named the Premier League, can we now assume that, for the sake of conformity, the “Championship” will soon be renamed the Champions League?
Derek Megginson, Scarborough

Dear WSC
Ian Plenderleith in Webwatch WSC 250 has a point (a very laboured one) about the number of throw-ins on Sporting Life’s Live Match Centre pages but the live feed (sourced from the Press Association) is designed to record events – shots, corners, free-kicks etc – and throw-ins are a common occurrence. But Ian is so obsessed with these he fails to see anything else on the page. Ask around, Ian, and you’ll find that these pages are hugely popular with fans for a number of reasons. They’re the first place to reveal team line-ups including subs, they show live yellow and red cards, number of shots, corners and free-kicks and the text also mentions goal assists. Ever had a fantasy team Ian, or made a spread bet? My biggest gripe, though, is that he compares a lower-league match on our site to a Champions League match on the Guardian site. Above and beyond the Live Match Centres, Sporting Life has live minute-by-minute updates on all Champions League games involving British teams and the same service for televised Premier League and international games. Had Ian compared the same match across four different websites – a screamingly obvious way to present his article but one he overlooked – he might have noticed this.
Dave Tindall, Sportinglife.com

Dear WSC
Much has been written recently comparing the overpriced hype that the Premier League entails with watching the average Bundesliga team. As my team, Bolton Wanderers, were to play Bayern Munich at the ground whose picture often accompanies articles on German football, I was looking forward to a visit to the Allianz Arena. There were, of course, numerous things that were an improvement on football in England. The price for one, and the fact that the 4,000 Bolton fans who made the trip could stand and sing the whole way through without an over-zealous steward chucking them out. But the Germans haven’t got everything right. This being a UEFA game, I knew that there wouldn’t be any alcohol on sale. What did surprise me, though, was that I couldn’t take any drink or food into the stands. More worryingly, the food kiosks insist on you purchasing an “Allianz Card” for a €10 (£7) minimum and using that for all transactions. Maybe this is typical across the bigger German teams, but, anecdotally at least, this doesn’t seem to be the case. That is undeniably specific to Bayern Munich, and 1860 Munich with whom they share the ground, is the stadium itself. The Allianz Arena is stunning when viewed from the outside, but there is nothing at all, no badges or crests, to indicate which team called this place their home. (Allianz, the sponsors, are a German insurance company.) The seats are, uniformly, grey. If you wanted to suck all the individualism out of a club’s home ground while maximising the level of profit from all those who pass through the turnstiles, then the Allianz Arena would probably form the blueprint. Much has been made of the fact the stadium “changes colour”, depending on which team is playing at home, and it’s a neat trick. But that seems to me to be the ultimate in superficiality and impermanence. There is nothing to show that this ground belongs to both or even either of two clubs with long ­histories and their own traditions. Anyone who has been to the Reebok may smile at the irony of a Bolton fan criticising a recently built, corporate-sponsored, out-of-town stadium for a lack of character. But ask yourself this: would you want your team to play at a stadium where any indication that this is your ground, your territory, your home could be erased just by taking the light bulbs out, or flicking a switch?
Joseph Fysal, via email

Dear WSC
Seeing my club Braintree Town defeat Havant & Waterlooville 4-2 on penalties to reach the Conference promotion final in May got me thinking about other penalty shootouts that we had been involved in. Our very first, a 3-2 success over Mersea Island in a Worthington Evans Cup replay, was back in September 1977. Shootouts were still quite rare in those days and we continued to become involved in the odd second replay right up until 1996. As I formulated a list of all our successes, it slowly dawned on me that I had never seen us lose on penalties. Over a 30-year period we have won ten out of ten UK competitive shootouts. In what is supposed to be a lottery, five wins out of ten would be considered reasonable – but ten? Could it be that Braintree are the number-one spot-kick champions of England? We have a side full of young Englishmen and will be quite proud to represent England in future tournaments at a fraction of the cost of the current mob. Can anyone else challenge our record? I do have to confess to a slight doctoring of the facts – while unbeaten in England, we have lost twice in France and once in Holland in close-season tournaments, but on each occasion the kicks came at the end of a 25-minutes each way match, where more than one game was played on the day. So they don’t count, obviously. Within three days of announcing my findings in the club programme, we found ourselves away to Blue Square Premier side Grays Athletic in the Essex Senior Cup. Down to ten men for most of the game, we were comfortably holding the home side to a 1-1 draw and edging ever closer to extra time and penalties. It suddenly occurred to me that there could be nothing more certain in life than that my revelations would personally bring about our immediate downfall on penalties at the earliest opportunity. You can imagine how relieved I was when Grays grabbed a dramatic late winner with just one minute on the clock.
Jon Weaver, via email

Dear WSC
While watching Match of the Day 2 on November 9, I became intrigued to discover whether Gavin Peacock’s assertion that Tim Cahill, as a goalscoring midfielder, really was “worth his weight in gold”. A quick browse on the internet told me that Tim Cahill declares his weight as 68kg and that the current price of gold is £12,775.74 per kg. Based on these assumptions, a gold-transmuted Tim Cahill would only be worth a paltry £869,000 (give or take a few thousand pounds) – well below the going rate for a goalscoring midfielder of Premier League quality. It would appear that the price of a top-flight midfielder outstripped that of gold some time ago and this is unlikely to be reversed unless gold prices rocket or Jan Molby makes an unlikely comeback.
Paul Rowling, Nottingham

Dear WSC
Perhaps your readers can settle an argument. Who were the first team to celebrate a goal by kneeling down in a line behind the ­goalscorer and pretending to waddle like ducks? I’m sure it was Aylesbury United in the FA Cup during the 1990s, in reference to the famous ducks that are bred locally. However, a friend insists that this was started by a Premier League side and only copied by lower-level teams after it had appeared on TV – just as the “baby rocking” gesture began with the 1994 Brazil World Cup team before becoming a general trend. Help us, WSC – the cost of a duck-based dinner is resting on the right answer.
Mark Rendle, via email

Dear WSC
For many years I have felt that football isn’t what it was, but I’ve never been able to put my finger on when or why it changed, until now. So a big thank you for publishing the picture (WSC 250) of Alf Ramsey’s self-containment as all around him went crazy in 1966. All around him, that is, except the gentleman to his immediate right, who is puffing contentedly on his pipe. Surely, the day pipe-smoking became unacceptable in the dugout must be the day when ­football changed forever.
Tim Manns, via email

Dear WSC
Thanks for the match report on Oxford v Woking (WSC 250). A reasonable summary of the events on the day I reckon, though the statement, with reference to Woking, that “they come to Oxford with the intention of discomfiting the biggest club in the league” smells distinctly of the attitude taken by Rushden & Diamonds in the days when they had a pot to piss in, and there may be a lesson to learn there I think! By the way, Woking came to try to win, it just looks like we are always trying to draw because of our strange defensive formation which our manager, Frank Gray, insists we use in all matches no matter who we are playing. One final comment: “Marvin Martin” is in fact “Marvin Morgan” – a factual error that might not look too serious until you start counting the number of times Josh Widdicombe refers to him.
Chris Hunter, Farnham

Dear WSC
I was interested, as a life-long Stockport fan, to read in the article on Sammy Lee in WSC 250 that the list of clubs that Gary Megson had “tried and failed at” included Stockport. It pains me to support a man who was not a favourite County manager of mine, but credit where credit is due. He took over the side that had won promotion to (what was then) Division One after David Jones had moved on to manage Southampton. I was at Edgeley Park on September 20, 1997, to watch the make-or-break match against Huddersfield. Popular rumour was that he had lost the dressing room and with only three draws and three points out of 21 was to be sacked if County lost. The team stormed to a thrilling 3-0 win, Megson’s animated touchline shirt-sleeved antics gradually winning round the cynical crowd, and they went on a run of nine wins in the next 13 games.Megson led us to our highest ever League position (eighth in what was then Division One) despite starting the season without the influential Paul Jones and Lee Todd, who were transferred to Southampton, and during the season (we will always be a selling club) selling Chris Marsden and Alun Armstrong. Just to put the record straight!
Lawrence G Cross, via email

Dear WSC
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley seems very keen to show his credentials as a member of the, ahem, Toon Army by wearing his black-and-white shirt in the directors’ box at St James’ Park. He even caused some controversy by threatening to wear it in the directors’ box at the Stadium of Light, before taking his place with the away fans.But if he really wants to mark himself out as a one of the “best fans in the land”, surely he should be appearing without a shirt, like so many of his Gallowgate chums, especially as winter is finally drawing in? He certainly seems to have the body for it.
Joe Connor, Worcester

Dear WSC

What a pity you were not able to identify all the people in the Shot! feature in WSC 250. Your more “mature” readers, of whom I am one, would have found it fascinating. If anyone is interested, I can identify two more of those pictured – third from the left in the front row is Wilf Copping, the “tough-tackling” Arsenal and England left-half of the 1930s, while Harry Medhurst, the West Ham and Chelsea keeper of the 1940s and 1950s, is third from the right in the third row from the back.
John Fawcett, via email

Dear WSC
Kerlon the seal dribbler (WSC 249) is an unusual case in that most purveyors of fancy tricks like that don’t actually go on to a career in professional football – keepy-uppy championships are the closest they get. This set me thinking about that supreme test of a young players’ skills, the Penalty Prize competition created by ITV Sport in the 1970s. ITV’s Saturday show ran a regular series in which a group of young players from each TV region took penalties against a local pro keeper, with the winners progressing to a final staged at Wembley before one of the cup finals. It was a bit of a lottery in that kids from the HTV region might have been up against a Third Division keeper while the ATV/Central starlets had to try to beat Peter Shilton. Some didn’t manage to score any of their allotted kicks, though I don’t recall any teary tantrums. Many of the adolescents who took part also looked like they’d be good at hitting the blackboard with a wad of soaked blotting paper hurled from the back of the class, but did any ever make it as professional players? I can imagine a scrawny Matt Le Tissier triumphing at this sort of test, but it may have been slightly before his time.
Vaughan Roberts, via email

From WSC 251 January 2008

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