THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
As a supporter of a smaller club myself, I sympathise with Luton’s current plight, but Eva Tenner’s letter in WSC 253 has brought out the devil’s advocate in me. To her list of those not responsible for Luton’s woes, she should also have added Liverpool FC’s board. Liverpool gave Luton quite a bit of help anyway by playing badly enough in the first tie to allow Luton a replay at Anfield. If you add the attendances at the 32 third-round ties and 12 replays together, only three pairings had a greater audience than Luton v Liverpool, so Luton arguably did as well as they could financially out of this season’s FA Cup. If Luton had been drawn away to my team, Tranmere, for example (average attendance around 7,000), would there have been a similar call for Luton to have all the gate money? I think not. Or what if Luton had faced another smaller team and lost in 90 minutes? Would a replay have been ordered to try to boost the Hatters’ coffers that way? No. I genuinely hope Luton find their way out of their current difficulties, but the fact is that meeting one of the Big Four should be seen as a helpful stroke of luck for them, rather than a reason for their fans to moan about Liverpool’s supposed meanness.
Tristan Browning, Reading

Dear WSC
Ian Plenderleith makes some extremely valid points about the quality of webzines in his article Network Failure (WSC 252), but I was bemused to see my Rivals site (www.pompey-fans.com) mentioned somewhat pejoratively, highlighting a “feature” that is “a piece by a bloke reporting what his mates said about the game down the pub”. This column – “Anorak Arms” by Steve Woodhead – has been a staple of my site since it was launched in 2000 and has a loyal following. I was going to dismiss this “bad” publicity, given that all publicity is good, until I was browsing through a WSC special of a few years back commemorating 200 issues. In there was issue number one and on the front page was a column that claimed that “What it [WSC] might be a bit more like is the sort of thing you might talk about down the pub. Gossip, stories, arguments, some serious things that never get discussed anywhere else, like racism in football, but mostly not.” In its time Anorak Arms, like WSC, has ticked all those boxes and more. Surely we haven’t come to the point where WSC no longer feels it is appropriate for webzines to represent the views of the ordinary fan in the pub? If that is the case, perhaps the time has come to ­consider my 19-year subscription…
Colin Farmery, Portsmouth

Dear WSC
At the risk of being in a minority of one, I don’t think this Premier League idea of playing a 39th game abroad is such a bad thing. Always providing, of course, that us UK football fans get somebody else’s league, preferably the Spanish one, played here at the same time.
I for one would much rather watch Barcelona against anybody than, say, West Ham v Middlesbrough. In fact, why stop at one game? Why don’t we agree now that all Spanish League games next season will be played here, while all Premier League games will alternate between Beijing, Baltimore and Beirut? At least Ashley Cole would then have something worth moaning about.
Mick Blakeman, Wolverhampton

Dear WSC

I was interested to read Csaba Abrahall’s romantic lament about the decline of Sports Report (Reporting Restrictions, WSC 253). For full football snobbery points, perhaps Csaba should join those of us who avoid the programme like the plague so we can watch Match of the Day without having the surprise spoilt. For every totemic “tradition” the modern fan is meant to treat with reverence, there are plenty of more idiosyncratic ones we can create for ourselves. Csaba should remember that The Man will always try to ruin anything remotely pleasurable for the average fan. Why else would Tim Lovejoy be allowed to present 6.06?
Ed Bridges, Cardiff

Dear WSC

Alex Anderson may have a point that Rangers fans’ “Big Jock Knew” chant is morally dubious (On the Offensive, WSC 253). But slanderous? Jim Torbett’s successor at Celtic Boys Club testified at Glasgow Sheriff Court that Jock Stein was indeed aware of the child abuse. Not that it was suggested Mr Stein did nothing – he was said to have chased Torbett from the club, refusing to allow Celtic to employ him while he remained. Whether this was an adequate response is a complicated ethical debate, entirely unsuited to the form of a three-word mantra. However, perhaps Mr Anderson’s views would resonate more with the Rangers support if this did not seem like another example of our being castigated where others have got off scot-free. Where was this sensitivity in Scottish football when we were treated to songs about the Ibrox Disaster? Or the triumphalist anthems of Aberdeen fans about the career-threatening injury suffered at Pittodrie by Ian Durrant? Where indeed was the media outcry when the chants of “Richard Gough, child molester” – a truly slanderous and ridiculous chant – rang around every Premier League ground in Scotland? Rangers fans need no reminding of how “shockingly disturbing football chants can still be”. But you’ll excuse us if we don’t find it a coincidence that Scottish football decides only now that it no longer has the stomach for them.
David Johnston, Glasgow

Dear WSC

While reading a book on the history of European football, I discovered something that surprised me – Paolo Maldini, that great Italian left-back, is right-footed. At first I thought this must be common knowledge and felt really stupid for not knowing, but after talking to friends I found that I was not alone. Apparently he always used to play right-back when he was young, but Milan needed a left-back, so Maldini practised with his left foot until it was hard to tell which was his stronger foot. This got me thinking about how many players at my club (Sheffield Wednesday) I would consider two-footed, with Jermaine Johnson arguably being the only one. How many times to you hear a pundit excuse a striker for missing a chance because it was on his “wrong” foot? If players want to even begin to justify their millionaire status, they need to be more like Maldini and be equally good with both feet.
Daniel Crofts, Sheffield

Dear WSC

Has anybody else noticed how Adrian Chiles gives the Carling Cup final result unannounced on MOTD2 every year, before the ITV highlights? I first spotted this with the 2005 final and the habit has continued every year since. This year Chiles almost interrupted Gavin Peacock in mid-sentence to say congratulations to Spurs. If only one fan has his two hours’ footy (not knowing the result) ruined, then that’s one too many, Adrian. You only have to say Carling Cup, then inhale indefinitely, and we’d all be happy.
Mike Taylor, Tulse Hill, London

Dear WSC

Without wanting to offend or denigrate the Republic of Ireland’s fine achievement in landing Giovanni Trapattoni as their new manager, was I the only one who, on witnessing the Italian proudly brandishing his Ireland scarf, could only think of the suave Italian priest who turned out for Rugged Island in that classic Father Ted episode?
Dave Smith, Glasgow

Dear WSC

On Monday, February 4, I handed in my notice, having accepted another job offer. Under strict instructions from my new employer not to say where I was going, I have since that day kept it quiet, and am due to finish on February 27. Imagine my amusement, as a Coventry City ­season-ticket holder, to see speculation coming to fruition with the announcement today, Tuesday 19, of Chris Coleman as the new manager of my team. Cue mild amusement all round.
Chris Coleman, Warwick

Dear WSC

A pedantic friend once pointed out that Bayern Munich was a mongrel term, half-German, half-English. In Germany they call the team FC Bayern München, in English it should be Bavaria Munich. This is the kind of niggling question with which the pedant can infect the rest of us. Most of the time I’m fine, I can cope without knowing, but then every once in a while I have to know how this started and why it isn’t stamped out. Bayern has a comforting lilt in English but München’s syllables are perhaps too short and grating, or perhaps the umlaut intimidates. Does anyone know how this started and whether it can be stopped?
James Edwards, Brixton

Dear WSC

Joyce Woolridge’s piece regarding Manchester United and the Munich crash (WSC 253) was probably the best and most balanced article I have seen on the subject in a long time. It did, however, pose a question that speaks volumes about MUFC in general. She wonders “what the Munich crash represents for supporters of other teams”. The short answer is, “nothing”. It was a tragic event for the club and the city, but that is all. There have been a number of similar events that have resulted in the deaths of players but that are not afforded the status in the game, at least in this country, that is given to this particular disaster. This is not to belittle the event, it is just a fact of life. What is telling about the article and indeed the whole press and TV coverage of the anniversary is that fans of other clubs are expected to share in the emotional aspects of its commemoration. Personally I was not at all surprised that Man City supporters behaved impeccably during the silent period; I would have expected the same from just about every set of fans in the country. However, surely it is not realistic to think that fans of other clubs would want to mark an event that happened 50 years ago to people with whom most of us have or had no relationship whatsoever? The sense that other clubs’ fans are supposed to see this in a certain way smacks of hubris. This has always been the case with United, that we are meant to see their triumphs and disasters on and off the pitch as somehow more important than those that actually affect us. Sorry, but we don’t.
Stuart McDonald, Islington

Dear WSC

Not wishing to be a pedant, but there is an error in Drew Whitworth’s probability calculation of the likelihood of “Grand Slam Sunday” (Letters, WSC 253). Team A play six matches per season in total against teams B, C and D. On each of these occasions, the likelihood that the remaining two teams play each other is 1 in 17. Therefore the probability of a Grand Slam Sunday occurring during a season is 1 – (16/17) raised to the power of 6. Which is about 30.5 per cent or nearly once every three seasons on average. When it starts to become an annual event, then we can reasonably assume that the fixture computer is less than random. As for the odds of Southampton continuing on the path to self-destruction, well that is anyone’s guess.
John Hilbourne, Winchester

Dear WSC

The article Never Meet Your heroes (WSC 253) got me thinking about the time Byron Stevenson, the late Leeds and Wales defender, left a lasting mark on me and my mates. He was running a pub in Pudsey in Leeds at the time, one where we used to enjoy an illicit underage pint. We were all quietly impressed that a former player was running a pub in our home town, but that soon changed when Stevenson marched over one night and out of the blue ordered us to “drink up and piss off”. We never did get the chance to ask him about his five goals in the famous white shirt.
Mark Hullah, Leeds

Dear WSC

As an American devotee of your publication I was anxious to read the articles on fans’ displeasure with American owners of Liverpool and Manchester United (WSC 253). Both articles mention the whimpering anti-American feelings that each club’s supporters have felt since their respective takeovers. These supporters are pathetic and naive. They need to wake up and smell the Starbucks. Americans have discovered English football (as a sport and revenue stream), and we are taking over. We now own four Premier League clubs and there are more US players in the Premier League than ever before – 13 (until Fulham are relegated). The official beer of the Premier League has been Budweiser for several years. Budweiser! And soon official matches will be played in the USA, at a time of day convenient for me, not you. Like everything else, America will take over and there is nothing you can do to stop us! Fans’ buy-out? Seriously? They are so adorable with their little signs and protests. Now get back in your seats. Of course your seat is no longer in the Kop, it’s located in the “Coca-Cola concourse brought to you by Bank of America” – with Bank of America, you’ll never walk alone. Now who’s ready for some soccer?
Adam Tripi, Boston, USA

Dear WSC

During the commentary of England v Switzerland, Motty was heard to mutter to Lawro that he didn’t know how to apply for tickets online. This was delivered with a sniggering half-apology, suggesting that he is ignorant of, and yet superior to, the modern world. A quick check back to the heady days of Germany 1 England 5 and the same smarmy one makes a similar plea of ignorance and innocence to Trevor Brooking, again over online ticketing – over six years earlier. How can a BBC commentator live such an isolated existence and be unmoved by the technological revolution? Quite easily, it seems.
Luke Fairweather, Watford

Dear WSC

The idea to stage some Premier League matches abroad is, I think, a masterstroke. They’ve obviously noted the high ticket prices at Chelsea, Manchester United and others and have come to the conclusion that by travelling to Bangkok by Easyjet or Ryanair and buying a ticket in local currency the average UK based fan could actually save money…
Mark Carroll, Chicksands, Beds

From WSC 254 April 2008

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