THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Amid all the furore over the arrival of Kevin Keegan at Newcastle, I was struck by the fact Kev’s old mate Terry McDermott has somehow been kept on at St James’ Park in the ten years since KK’s departure. He usually sat among the coaching staff on matchdays with seemingly no specific role and was never mentioned by TV commentators when the cameras scanned the bench (as they often did during the later days of Big Sam’s turbulent reign). His insignificance was such that I wonder if he had been there so long that no one at Newcastle could actually see him any more. He was visible from afar, showing up on photographs and on TV screens, but up close he blended into the background. Terry has rematerialised fully now that his little mate is back in charge, although his exact role remains unclear – I’m guessing that it doesn’t extend much further than making tea and going out to get Special K’s copy of the Racing Post.
Ross Cannon, via email

Dear WSC
This year’s was the warmest January 18 ever recorded in the south of England. I think I know how this came about. It was due to the inordinate amount of hot air pumped into the atmosphere by the London media in response to Keegan’s return to Newcastle. A cloud of stickily warm sentimentalism, known to meteo­rologists as a Toon fug, hung over the region for a few days before dissipating. There will be similar temperature surges after every Newcastle home game for the next few months but they will be progressively less intense, as there is a finite number of times that national newspaper columnists can crank out pieces about that unique tribe whose passion for football runs as deep as the Tyne. Or so I hope.
David Hobson, via email

Dear WSC
couldn’t let Ian Farrell’s claim that three hat-tricks in one team’s score in a game was unheard of in his article about Man City’s 10-1 win over Huddersfield Town go unchallenged (WSC 252). On March 3, 1962, Wrexham beat Hartlepools United (as they were then called) in a Division Four game at the Racecourse Ground by the same score. Wyn Davies, Ron Barnes and Roy Ambler each scored three and according to Peter Jones’s excellent Wrexham: A Complete Record we reached ten with 20 minutes left. It was clearly a feat that was unheard of outside north Wales, but we haven’t got much else to shout about at the moment.
James Winstanley, via email

Dear WSC
There was only the briefest mention, quickly dropped, in the media about Liverpool’s refusal to let Luton have all the gate money from their recent FA Cup game. Luton’s board may be responsible for the club’s woes, but the supporters are not; nor are their players, who’ve not been paid for two months. The sum involved is approximately the same as two week’s wages of one Liverpool player. When Fulham played York in the FA Cup fourth round in 2001-02, City were in a similar position. Fulham’s chairman offered his club’s share of the gate, which the York board refused (they wanted to sell the ground for development). The money was therefore given to the York City Supporters’ Trust, who eventually took over the running of the club. It seems that Liverpool felt unable to be equally generous.
Eva Tenner, London W12

Dear WSC

Paul Byrne is hardly one of the game’s greats, with a bit of a go at Celtic and a turn in the lower divisions augmented only by a spell at Glenavon of the Irish League, where he hit the local headlines after his manager publicly lambasted him for being too fat. Recently, however, while seeking distraction from the incessant dullness of Man City v West Ham, I reached for this season’s version of the Sky Sports Football Yearbook and somehow found myself at Southend United in the players’ section. I was amazed to find that not only did I imagine the Glenavon spell, not to mention subsequent run-outs for Bohemians, St Patrick’s Athletic, Kilkenny City, Dundalk and St James’ Gate, but in fact Paul has spent 12 consecutive seasons at the Shrimpers without appearing in the last nine. Surely this is either a record of some sort, or further proof that Sky Sports couldn’t care less about the “lower” divisions.
John Morrow, Belfast

Dear WSC

I’ve been enjoying Roy Hodgson’s TV interviews after Fulham games because he has such an old-fashioned voice, one that I find quite soothing. He sounds like a dapper Cockney gent in a newsreel discussing how sad he will be to see the old street knocked down but that’s progress, isn’t it guvnor, and these plans for a high-rise block look right nice. I assume that he sounds the way he does because of his globe-trotting career – people still talked like that when he was last in the UK for any length of time, which must be as far back as the late 1960s. If Roy hasn’t yet said that he’s delighted to be back in “dear old Blighty” then it’s only a matter of time. I also wonder if his coaching staff are able to concur with their manager’s view that the team are lacking a “tip-top right-half”.
Nathan Clifford, via email

Dear WSC

Congratulations to David Stubbs, who managed to castigate fellow journalists for their cliche-ridden accounts of football in the provinces (WSC 252) before falling into the trap himself. Derby may well be north of London as he points out, but it was still in the midlands last time I looked. If he thinks the area round Pride Park is bad, he should have seen what it was like round the Baseball Ground. And the suggestion that Derby has a “rich tradition” of brass bands will come as news to most people in the city. The only trumpet to have been blown in the vicinity recently was from a writer who described a football match as having a “wintry air of Euripidian inevitability”.
Robin Hutchison, via email

Dear WSC

In David Stubbs’s account of a trip to Pride Park he refers to “up north” and “in the north” in his opening paragraph. Now, while Derby is certainly north of London, it is certainly not in the north of England. Derby is in the midlands, and you really can’t miss the midlands. There are at least 11 counties, ten million people and dozens of football clubs. And while on the subject, can we please have some more accurate chants. Every weekend you can lambast the “dirty northern bastards” or the “cheating southern bastards”, but what about us midlanders? Surely we warrant our own geographically specific abuse?
Matt Johnson, Tamworth

Dear WSC

Like Taylor Parkes (WSC 252), I am confused by my fellow Scotsman Alan Brazil’s scathing attack on anyone who disagrees with his views as “lacking common sense”. In particular, I was interested in the following quote from the book: “Asian people are happiest living with those of their own culture without having to adapt to the British way of life… why don’t we stop pretending ‘integration’ works…?” This statement came as a surprise to me, particular after I had read Mr Brazil’s weekly column in the Sunday Post as recently as December 23. Given his little rant at bloody foreigners and their inability to assimilate into British life, surely on moving to a new culture Alan would practise what he preaches? Erm, no. Discussing Fabio Capello’s inability to speak fluent English, Alan relates his own ­experiences as an “immigrant”: “I spent a year ­playing in Switzerland, but never bothered learning German, because my FC Baden team-mates preferred talking to me in English. And one of my most memorable experiences over there was spending seven hours in a pub with the first-team coach swapping jokes, even though neither of us spoke each other’s language!” Immigrants not even bothering to learn the local language and assuming everyone else will move out of their way to communicate with them? Aside from Alan’s perhaps innocent claim that his team-mates preferred speaking to him in English rather than, say, wishing the lazy sod would pick up at least a smattering of the local dialect, maybe it’s not “integration” that fails us, but that Mr Brazil has failed at integration.
Graeme Coleman, Carnoustie

Dear WSC

I don’t deny that “Grand Slam Sunday” is an overhyped behemoth (WSC 252), but your claim that it “has started happening more often than it should” might seem obvious, but can be challenged. Simple common sense suggests that any group of four teams in the Premier League spend nearly one sixth of their season playing each other: six games out of 38, or three from 19 if you split the season into two halves that are mirror images of each other. You can also work this out using probability: if team A and B of the four play each other on a given weekend then team C has a 1 in 17 chance of playing team D on that same weekend. As there are three possible weekends in each half when this matters the probability of it happening at least once is 1-(16/17 to the power of three), or about a 16.7 per cent chance of it happening each season – again, roughly one in six. As anyone who rolls die knows, the chance that a six will come up in two consecutive rolls (seasons) is reasonable. Or put another way, the possibility of this all happening again next year is no less likely than being able to start a game of Ludo. Unfortunately.
Drew Whitworth, Hebden Bridge

Dear WSC

Like John Fawcett (Letters, WSC 251), I would welcome some more names being added to the photograph of Lilleshall coaches (Shot, WSC 250). I am clearly from the same vintage as John, as I can add three from the dynamic Wolverhampton Wanderers set‑up in the Fifties: Bill Shorthouse, a “hard‑ tackling” full-back, is in the fourth row from the back, second right; Joe Gardiner, Stan Cullis’s loyal first-team trainer, is just in front of Shorthouse and slightly to his right; and Jimmy Murray, a formidable free-scoring centre-forward, is in the front row, second right. Second row, third left, is Wilf Dixon, a trainer/coach notably at West Brom in the late Fifties and for most of the Sixties at Harry Catterick’s Everton. There are several others whose names are tantalisingly close, but after all these years that is probably as good as it gets.
Paul Collins, via email

Dear WSC

Regarding Tim Manns’ letter (WSC 252) about “innocuous areas” in the penalty box – I had a similar thought earlier in the season when a manager complained that a penalty was given even though the ball was going out of play and the striker would never have reached it. Just think how defenders could spice things up in these circumstances: shepherding another overhit through ball harmlessly out for a goal-kick by stepping in the way, just as it trickles over the line he could throw his elbow full in the striker’s face. Then the ref, stepping into the “innocuous” part of the penalty area to lend him his hankie to stem the blood flow, would say, sympathetically: “I’d love to give you a penalty, but you were never going to reach that ball.”
Mark Lewsey, Glasgow

Dear WSC

Reading Matthew Barker’s excellent article on Fabio Capello (WSC 252), I couldn’t help but laugh at the Italian reaction to the appointment, especially the quote from La Gazzetta dello Sport “promptly likening Capellomania to Julius Caesar, conquering the English with ease”. Now this may be being overly pedantic, but although Caesar invaded Britain twice (in 55 and 54 BC) he never actually conquered it, finding the campaign far from “easy” and an unwanted distraction from his invasion of Gaul. Britain remained entirely unoccupied by the Romans until 43 AD, when the Emperor Claudius invaded. It seems laziness is not the sole preserve of the English press.
Andy Gill, via email

Dear WSC
A nice sweeping statement from Jim Donoghue about Northern Ireland fans (Letters, WSC 252). One nutter with a 20p piece who makes a crank call to Neil Lennon hardly represents them all. Never mind, Jim, we will just gloss over the fact that Northern Ireland fans were awarded the Brussels International Supporters Award in 2006. This was presented by delegates from UEFA and the EU for their efforts to stamp out sectarianism, superb charity work and commitment to the promotion of good relations.
Stephen Cross, via email

Dear WSC

Keith Gray (WSC 252) misses the point about commentators using the phrase “you would put your mortgage on Gerrard to score from there”. My admittedly rudimentary grasp of economics is that a mortgage is a debt, so why shouldn’t you gamble this on someone scoring? Surely the phrase should be “you would put your house on Gerrard to score from there”. This would run the risk of ending up homeless.
Martin Ibrahim, Burwell

From WSC 253 March 2008

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