THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
The letter about spectators leaving games early (WSC 265) reminded me of a father and son who were regulars in the Enclosure at Fulham in the 1980s. They were quite an unappealing pair generally, prone to loud and unfunny abuse of both sets of players and especially of the match officials. The father would often attempt to get a slow handclap going when there was a stoppage in play. Without fail they would leave several minutes before the end of game, even if Fulham were on the attack and pressing for an equaliser or, more often, grimly hanging on for a draw. They’d always look immensely pleased with themselves as they edged along the terrace, as though beating the post-match rush was a major victory. They stopped appearing at games eventually so it must have occurred to them that the only guaranteed way to avoid getting stuck in traffic would be to not leave the house at all.
Rob Henderson, Cirencester

Dear WSC
Ray Chenery’s letter (WSC 265) made me cast my mind back to my days going down to watch Leicester City in the 1980s with a friend and his Dad. His Dad was one of these guys who, irrespective of the score in the game at the time, would always leave with five minutes to go so as to avoid the traffic, seeing Leicester lose, or whatever other reason there was to escape the East Stand of Filbert Street during those heady days of Gary Lineker, Alan Smith et al.However, this never seemed to bother my friend who took the view that whatever the score was when we left, that was the score. So if Leicester threw away a 1-0 lead, or turned around a 1-0 deficit in the last five minutes, it didn’t count. And to take this one step further, he compiled meticulous records taking into account results of other games, all at the 85 minute mark, so that he could compile his alternative league table. One year this resulted in my friend concluding that Leicester were League champions, whereas I don’t think we ever finished higher than just below mid-table. At the time though, it certainly made us both feel better about our time following the Foxes.
Stuart Saunders, Leicester

Dear WSC
Mick Blakeman’s kind offer (Letters, WSC 265) to contribute to the legal costs of challenging ownership of the history and honours of Wimbledon FC won’t be necessary as, following negotiation, they were transferred by the other lot to Merton Council in 2007.However, I’m sure AFC Wimbledon supporters won’t be voting to drop the AFC prefix any time soon. The name was originally chosen to differentiate us from Wimbledon FC, which continued to exist for two seasons until their name change in 2004, AFC being chosen because it was closest to FC. Now, the AFC prefix remains as a reminder of what happened and is generally understood by most to stand for “A Fans’ Club”, our most fundamental guiding principle being that the club remains under the ownership of its supporters.To remove the prefix might open the door to acceptance that that principle might be compromised in the future and that can never be allowed. The never ending farce often turning to tragedy played at many clubs owned by individuals or consortia only strengthens that resolve.By the way, Thom Gibbs (Screen Test, WSC 265), Warren Barton’s lob was not flukey.
Roger Rogowski, Sevenoaks

Dear WSC
As a fellow Manchester City sufferer who also has issues about the future progress of the club I sympathised with Ian Farrell’s article in WSC 265. However, he bit into a raw nerve of mine when he stated that he viewed the years 2002-07 as a golden era for the club. Now I appreciate Ian was being ironic as the football on view in this spell was turgid, but ironically one of the key figures in the club during this period I believe is directly responsible for forcing the club down the controversial path we now walk: step forward Kevin Keegan.At the time we had a chairman, David Bernstein, who had magnificently rescued the clubs finances, restructuring the business that was at its lowest ebb when demoted to the third tier of English football, spearheading an immediate leap back to the Premier League. Keegan arrived and had his best two seasons at the club under Bernstein’s helm. But financial prudency wasn’t good enough for “King” Kev, he threw his toys out of the pram when Bernstein refused to spend a kings ransom on Robbie Fowler. Kev demanded the board back him or sack him and a boardroom split ensued, forcing Bernstein to resign and allow the starstruck board members to throw money at ageing has-beens like Fowler until the piggy bank had been shattered. Danny Mills is still on the payroll, cheers Kev.Anyway with the finances strangled thanks to the Keegan profligate transfer policy, Kev did what he does best and walked away, leaving a club with severe financial problems and the owners no choice but to bail out. The first buyer flirted with prison and a freezing of assets which then led to him selling out to one of his contacts. Perhaps if Mr Bernstein had been allowed to grow the finances organically and attract investors in his own way we would be following the Randy Lerner path to success rather than becoming a universal curio, a charmless “global brand” alongside Chelsea, which no City fan really wants to be.
Steve Heald, Edinburgh

Dear WSC
Reading Csaba Abrahall’s article on democracy in action (WSC 265) reminded me of the occasion several seasons ago when my own club, Leyton Orient, allowed fans to choose the team’s new kit via an online vote. Admittedly, the five childlike drawings on the club website showed kits that were remarkably similar, but I still have nothing but admiration for the workers in some poor far eastern country who were able to put the chosen kits together so rapidly. As the online kit vote closed at midnight on the Tuesday and the completed winning kits were for sale in the club shop on the Friday morning, I like to think that they were obviously on some lucrative overtime bonuses in order to meet shipping deadlines to get the order sent across the world in such a short space of time. That has to be the most logical assumption, no?
Dave Winter, Paris, France

Dear WSC

When I saw the cover of WSC 265 and noticed there was an editorial about the “Kaka Saga” as it has now become known, pertaining to discuss the implications for Man City fans, what it says about Milan and the melting down of the global football machine, I was intrigued, nay looking forward with eager anticipation to reading about this preposterous non-transfer.How strange then it was to read a piece that was the football editorial equivalent of Bart Simpson saying “I didn’t do it” after filling Homer’s car with alligators. Worse still was the fact that my own team, West Ham United, were dragged into the argument as if there was at any point a level playing field of comparison to be had. Sure we paid slightly over the odds for a fat-arsed Aussie, but all concerned still deny that the salary quoted is anywhere near what the papers, and subsequently everyone in the world (why would you argue with something that has been in print and is therefore the truth?), agree that he is being paid. The fact that City were stupid enough to pay £14 million for Bellamy is hardly West Ham’s fault and says more about City’s attempts to at least look like they were at the races in January than it does about our directors actually trying to do some good business for the club for a change. Our biscuit magnate/bank owning conglomerate have been very publicly outed as being skint long since, and our good business in the January transfer window was surely something that other clubs in the Premier League and beyond should look at and admire.Reading between the lines, it is easy to see that City fans must be totally embarrassed at the result of the recent transfer window. For Kaka, read Bellamy. For challenging the top six read bottom-half finish. And that is possibly the only comparison between the two clubs that should be drawn if any. The fact that we will have paid a gazillion pounds less to achieve that lofty position than City says it all.
Andy Marriott, Leigh on Sea

Dear WSC
Harry Pearson is particularly insightful when writing about the Boro. However, I thought he was a little hard on Fabrizio Ravanelli in WSC 265. Granted he was a whinger (I bet Mikkel Beck still shudders at the mention of his name), he must be the most “misquoted” player in the history of the game and I’m sure his team-mates would never have voted him the most popular player of the season. This doesn’t mean all his criticisms were unfounded.Prior to 2006, Boro’s most impressive trophy was the Anglo- Scottish Cup which they won in 1975 by beating Fulham with the help of an own goal. Before the arrival of Ravanelli et al, Boro had been to Wembley once – as losing finalists of the Zenith Data Systems Cup in 1990.Whatever else, the White Feather was a winner. As Harry Pearson concedes, Boro were relegated in 1997, effectively because they did not turn up for a match with Blackburn. Surely therefore, Rav’s comments about the club being run in an amateurish way have some validity?It’s probably wise to make no comment on his alleged complaints about drinking, diet and poor training beyond saying that they have been made elsewhere.
Chris Raistrick, Middlesbrough

Dear WSC
The pictures of Wolves players from 1959 (WSC 264) ought to provide inspiration for the cover designer of Morrissey’s next LP. Especially the main photo of a shirtless man combing his quiff in a mirror with another man in close attendance, while a third figure in the foreground is busily engaged in rubbing his thighs. The names of some Wolves players from that era might serve as partial inspiration for Mozzer song titles too, notably Eddie Clamp, Ron Flowers and Micky Lill.
Matt Hobson, Winchester

Dear WSC
Never thought I’d hear myself say this but ITV’s FA Cup coverage has been head and shoulders above that of the BBC. At least as far as the first and second round is concerned. The BBC’s “coverage” consisted of having about half an hour tacked onto the end of the Premiership highlights on MOTD. By the time the two or three featured games had been covered (which may or may not have featured an upset), there was only time for some of the goals from some of the remaining games. You can say many things about ITV’s coverage, but at least they showed all the games.
Alun Thomas, Leatherhead

Dear WSC
I’ve become quite surprised at the lack of discussion in the magazine about the huge threat that a football “Team GB” at the 2012 Olympics presents to the existence of all the home nations.The Team GB debate is not just about the prospect of Northern  Ireland, Scotland and Wales losing their international footballing identities. If a Team GB is entered into the football competition in 2012 then there is a very high likelihood that England would also lose their international identity: no more St George’s crosses (which have proved an amazing sight since their increased appearance following Euro 96), possibly even no more Wembley. Now, I can’t speak for all England supporters but the thought of losing this for an Under-23 mickey mouse tournament just doesn’t appeal to me.Recently Sepp Blatter has warmed to the idea of Team GB but less than a year ago he said that a Team GB would “put into question all the privileges that the British associations have”. It is clear that any assurances that are given by FIFA can easily be overturned when put to a vote of all member nations as even FIFA has to act like a democracy occasionally. I completely understand the financial argument for having a Team GB in the 2012 football tournament, but the cost of losing the identities of all four home nations is simply not a price worth paying.
Martin Riddell, Edinburgh

Dear WSC

Cost overrun as a factor in the abandonment of the Maze stadium is more straightforward – and starker – than Robbie Meredith suggests (WSC 265). His quoted figure doesn’t include any estimates for building an access road or railway spur and new trains, without which most fans would need to walk three miles from Lisburn town centre station and car parks. More importantly, the eventual £200m plus would have been wastefully diverted from other public spending. Linfield FC and the Irish FA currently estimate a cost of £7m to renovate Windsor Park for the next five years, including a new stand at the railway end which would increase capacity from 13,000 to 16,000. The old stadium may compare unfavourably with some in English Division Three: but then the more modest estimates above might have prevented Leeds United or Nottingham Forest dropping to that level.
Bill McComish, Stourbridge

Dear WSC
Richard Mason makes a good point about stoppage time in his letter (WSC 265) that should be easy to implement and apply to all levels of the game. However, referees on TV at least, have already changed the laws when it comes to Law 7, The Duration of the Match. Many games end when the ball is in neutral territory regardless of the amount of time that has been announced. Many games continue with a team on the attack winning a corner and being allowed to take it , when the clock is well past the announced time. Yes, I know they say a minimum of two minutes or whatever. That itself is meaningless. If we still don’t know when time is up, we won’t know when to hoof it off to bring about the final whistle.Time for either Italian accuracy or an off the field timing official with a hooter, like in rugby league. Perhaps Sir Alex could volunteer his watch?
Thomas Allen, Albufeira, Portugal

From WSC 266 April 2009

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