Dear WSC
Harry Pearson’s Riverside revisited (WSC 265) is undeniably trying to inflate Middlesbrough’s collective status and ego, as one would rather expect from a supporter of the club. He has tried to stretch the comparison just a little too far. Wealthy backers or otherwise, Manchester City have a history, status and, most importantly, a support Middlesbrough FC can only wish for. They, along with the the likes of Blackburn, Fulham and Wigan, are artifically sustained at an inflated level, due to wealthy indulgence from their owner/backer. It is quite clear their respective publics are unable to sustain a level of support home or away that would be expected, or indeed viable, for a club in the top tier. This is one of the consequences of the Premier League and the effect of wealth (one individual’s in these instances).The sole reason for Middlesbrough ever attaining Premier League status was down to the largesse of their chairman, rather than his selection of his “hero” as his first appointment as manager.
Steve Browne, Leigh-on-Sea

Dear WSC
Regarding your article about Darlington last issue (WSC 266): chairman George Houghton’s claims that he is the victim in all of this seem dubious, to say the least. He has made a lot of money from the stadium and is keen to hang on to it. He has done everything he can to get rid of the team: even trying to sell it to the Supporters’ Trust. If there is a buyer for the team, hopefully it won’t be yet another millionaire who thinks he can make money out of 3,000 fans.
Mike McClinton, London

Dear WSC
I think that Roger Rogowski (Letters, WSC 266) may have missed the point in Mick Blakeman’s suggestion of dropping the AFC from Wimbledon’s name. He’s probably right in saying most fans would want to keep it, and of course it did serve a purpose in the club’s early days.But please, please could we stop calling the club AFC Wimbledon in everyday speech. In the words of the song, we are Wimbledon. There’s no need any more to distinguish us from the Franchise, and I don’t hear, for example, Liverpool fans commonly referring to their team as “Liverpool FC”. Worse, I quite often hear Wombles fans referring to the team as just AFC. (“How did AFC do?” “They won.” Beating FC presumably, or possible PLC.)Please, let’s just call ourselves Wimbledon. In my habitual answer to those who seek further clarification to whom I support: “There’s only one Wimbledon.”
Aled Thomas, Cheltenham

Dear WSC
The time has come to rescue “the beautiful game” from the clutches of unscrupulous hacks (WSC 266). Despite years of sustained abuse, it’s still around because actually it says something meaningful and profound about football. If beauty is enchanting and mystifying, provoking passion, behaviour out of character and wild mood swings, then football is all these things. Not always, seldom maybe, but that’s not the point. It’s what it can be, the possibility, however remote, that it lies within reach, which captivates. Nothing wrong with a little romance. Once smitten, there’s beauty to be found in the hardest tackle as well as the most sweetly executed goalscoring volley.“The beautiful game” is the best description of what I believe football to be, a simple phrase that says so much about what is essentially a simple game. After a period of sensitive rehabilitation, it deserves another chance.
Alan Fisher, Northfleet

Dear WSC
While the coming of spring heralds new life and growth in nature, I’m hoping that the warmer weather will bring a temporary respite from one of the more annoying comments made by (especially radio) commentators: “[insert name of foreign player here] is wearing a short sleeve shirt along with a pair of gloves today. How ridiculous,” goes the comment. Now, I certainly don’t wish to defend any glove-wearing player, but what does the length of his shirt sleeves have to do with the necessity of wearing gloves? Are these commentators similarly aghast by Paula Radcliffe running the New York marathon wearing little more than vest, pants and gloves? Has Alan Green ever been out for a gentle jog on a cool day and been comfortable in a T-shirt, but found his fingers losing all feeling due to them being at the extremity of his body? Apparently not.Also, and I’m aware that I seem to be obsessed by players’ apparel here, but does anybody wear a genuine long sleeve shirt in the Premier League anymore? It’s all short sleeves over one of those shirt-coloured, snug-fitting, long-sleeve lycra things. Are workers losing their previously comfortable jobs of sewing long arms on to short sleeves? If yes, are they finding new employment making these oh so necessary skin-tight garments? In these harsh economic times, we need to be told.
Matt Ford, Oxford

Dear WSC
I’ve followed the “ITV’s coverage of the FA Cup is rubbish/fantastic, the BBC’s coverage was always fantastic/rubbish” debate since it began in WSC 265. I think that the point to make that surely seals the argument is that if ITV just said “we’re showing the Cup highlights, here they are” then they could really do what they wanted, in a vaguely BBC type way. However, because they are ITV, and therefore unable to Just Show Some Football they have to constantly show how great they are, how the FA Cup is central to everyone’s lives, how they are fantastic for even daring to show it, how they are prepared to slum it by going to non-League grounds, how they are on our side and so on. Therefore if they screw up, they are ripe for criticism, although most of the screw-ups have been quite entertaining – in fact better than the half-time “banter” between Townsend and Sheringham. Or Robbie. Ah, poor Robbie.Ideally, they could show a game on a Sunday, preceded by a short title sequence featuring the words “The FA Cup: xth round” and get on with it. Instead, they show that ludicrous title sequence of the historical building and welding of The Massive FA Cup, which nearly made me choke myself to death laughing the first time I saw it, they do slow motion slow motions of not much, they escort us to the door quite quickly, they make sure we see that A Townsend is operating his own special telly, etc.
Simon Smith, Reading

Dear WSC
Although much of the criticism of ITV’s FA Cup coverage – most obviously that ad break – is hardly justified, I would not get quite as excited as Alun Thomas is (Letters, WSC 266). ITV did indeed show every game of the first and second rounds but, in the early part of the decade, when ITV held the Premier League rights, so did the BBC in exactly the same form.The only reason they stopped showing them all when they regained the Premier League rights is because, to cover both competitions, Match of the Day would need to have been around two and a half hours long, and BBC1’s schedulers clearly did not fancy that. All the important or exciting games were covered anyway – the only ones they missed out were dire goalless draws or easy wins for the higher-placed team, and even they appeared on the red button, which is available to around 90 per cent of the population.In addition, ITV’s coverage may have shown all the games, but it was scheduled opposite Match of the Day. Given the choice between Arsenal v Manchester United and Eastwood Town v Brackley, I’d imagine most viewers would plump for the former. At least on the BBC you could see both.Also, ITV may show every FA Cup game, but that’s certainly not the case when it comes to the Football League, as supporters of any League One or Two club would tell you.
Steve Williams, Cleethorpes

Dear WSC
Re: the ongoing moans and groans regarding TV coverage of this year’s FA Cup. We viewers in Scotland do not have the same issue, in that the FA Cup has not featured at all on any terrestrial TV channel to date up here in northern UK. Indeed, quite often the only clue we Scots have that the next round is actually occurring is when “another exciting mystery for Inspector Wexford in Midsomer” is introduced in the weekend viewing schedule (cue much trawling through Sky to find ITV London).It wouldn’t be quite so bad if BBC Scotland made a decent job of the coverage of the Scottish Cup, but their highlights format appears to consist of 15 minutes coverage of the game featuring one half of the Old Firm, 15 minutes post match blether, ten minutes further blether on the upcoming match for the other half of the Old Firm, leaving around 15 minutes for match coverage and blether on all the other matches put together. Good old BBC Glasgow, er, Scotland (based in Glasgow).
Ah the magic of the cup – ho hum!
Ian Craig, Peterculter

Dear WSC,
Andy Marriott (Letters, WSC 266) is far from convinced that Lucas Neill’s salary is actually anywhere near as exorbitant as is generally believed. Indeed, he makes a good point – “Why would you argue with something that has been in print and is therefore the truth?” He then loses his way somewhat, claiming “City were stupid enough to pay £14 million for Bellamy”. The fact that Mark Hughes has confirmed that the fee was nowhere near £14 million clearly cuts no ice with Andy. Still, why would you argue with...
Anthony Taylor, Bramhall

Dear WSC
Now Darlington FC have been deducted ten points, that brings the number of clubs in League Two with double figures points deductions to four. Is that a record for a professional division or league?
Jon Matthias, Cardiff

Dear WSC
It’s gratifying to read in Glen Wilson’s Yorkshire bitter (WSC 266) that former Bournemouth manager Sean O’Driscoll is so popular with his new employers at Doncaster. What a far-sighted bunch the Keep­moat regulars must be compared to their two Sheffield rivals who have “no time for patience”. I must admit that these sagacious lovers of O’Driscoll’s “philosophy of fluid football” were a little thin on the ground when Bournemouth recorded their away win in League One early last season when I visited. In fact, I distinctly remember some vigorous booing and not a small amount of abuse directed at the former Cherries boss by the home fans. One gentleman even stopped his car to have a quick chat as we walked back to the station. “Are you from Bournemouth?” he enquired. “Er, yes,” I answered. “Well fucking take that manager back with you then,” he said before roaring off down the dual carriageway. Famous for their pragmatism, those Donny fans.
Simon Melville, London

Dear WSC
The Howard Pattison article about the best players in school not making it (WSC 266) is surely typical of all of our experiences.There were very many good players at the school I went to in Liverpool. (I was even dropped for one cup game from our first eleven so a clogger could man mark a certain Steve Coppell. I was narked but it worked and we won 1-0.) There were also some truly awful players, some of whom became captain because the teachers liked them or they cleaned up the showers after the game.In our school alone we had two excellent players who surely should have gone on to better things, one a goalkeeper, the other a centre-forward, who were injury and alcohol prone respectively. They ended up becoming a schoolteacher and a coach. The surprising thing to all of us wasn’t that they didn’t make it but who actually did. One was this totally inept left-back who made it on to Liverpool’s books allegedly because he was a total creep to the guys with the power at Liverpool Schoolboys. And the other ended up on Everton’s books and played almost 500 games for them. However, when he turned up for a Sunday kick-around on the back field with us he was always last to be picked simply because he was so rubbish.That’s just the way it goes, I suppose, it’s not what you can do but who you know that’s key to success in football and, he added, philosophically, in life. Or maybe it’s just that I’m jealous...
Len Horridge, Leeds

Dear WSC
Martin Riddell’s recent letter (WSC 266) throws up an anomaly in international football that the UK could finally resolve once and for all. I can’t be the only person that thinks that the way forward for international football in the UK is to rid ourselves of the four different national teams and to play all matches under a GB banner. Not only at the Olympics but in all UEFA and FIFA competitions.Currently, there is very little chance of any of the four home nations achieving any major success in international football but a unified GB team could be the way to finally gaining some competitive honours. Giggs, Bale, Fletcher, Davis, McFadden, Gordon etc would all have an excellent chance of becoming part of a GB football team and would increase the chances of a team from the UK winning either the European Championship or indeed the World Cup.  Having one team would also make it easier for us to host a competition as the matches would be more widespread and would open up pockets of support all over the UK. There would also be the additional knock on effect of having a true British league which has been mooted for many years and would be the impetus to kick start the archaic structure which governs the game in all four countries. This new team would win friends at FIFA as our block vote would no longer be necessary. Introducing a GB team to coincide with the Olympics could be a perfect legacy for our national game from the 2012 tournament.
Kato Davie,  Banbury

Dear WSC
My non-footballing friends were taken aback when I suggested that the entire Olympics should be boycotted if a football “Team GB” was foisted upon us. Now I’ve sobered up a further thought has occurred to me: in 2011 England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could play off and the winner could represent the UK. I’ve even thought of a name for this competition: “The Home Internationals”.
Paul Newell, Todmorden

From WSC 267 May 2009

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