THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
In WSC 272 Jonathan O’Brien finds it remarkable that Celtic’s Bertie Auld “straightfacedly asserts that beating Dunfermline in the Scottish Cup final in 1965 was more important than the title win a year later”. But Auld is not alone in his assertion. No less a man than Jock Stein said in the Dunfermline history Black and White Magic: “It wouldn’t have gone as well for Celtic had they not won this game.” The Celtic history The Glory and the Dream also notes: “The largest framed photograph in [Stein’s] office at Celtic Park showed Billy McNeill borne aloft at the end of the match.”Celtic had won nothing since “the 7-1 game”, a freakish League Cup final triumph over Rangers in 1957. So this win, Stein’s first trophy seven weeks after officially becoming manager, stopped a rot which was threatening to turn Celtic into also-rans in Scotland. Without it the Lisbon Lions may never have been and there may only ever have been one “nine-in-a-row” in Scottish football. And that would never do.
Mark Murphy, Chessington

Dear WSC
Footballers tend to keep up with the latest trends in haircuts and there were plenty who had long hair in the 1970s. But were there any skinhead players? This was a major youth cult for a few years but I can’t think of any footballers from the era with rigorously cropped hair. There’s a Burnley team photo from the mid-1970s in which Tony Morley, later of Villa and England, appears with a shaved head but I’m pretty sure that a bet was involved. For similar reasons Derek Dougan shaved his head completely when playing for Blackburn in the 1960s. Old-school managers who disliked their players to sport long hair and beards probably wouldn’t have objected to shaved heads – it might even have reminded them of their national service days. I can only assume that the look was discouraged at a time when skinheads were getting involved in terrace violence. So were there any footballing heroes of “bovver boys” who actually looked like they might spend their spare time buying ska records, and looking for fights?
Duncan Blackwell, Droitwich

Dear WSC
David Stubbs’s obsession with the hits of the 1980s (Match of the Month, WSC 272) cannot go unaddressed. OK, the Bangles and Bobby McFerrin, no complaints, but U2’s hit was titled Pride and only subtitled In the Name of Love. But at least the U2 offering does hail from the 1980s. More worrying is his accrediting of the Boston hit More than a Feeling to Foreigner which, far from being a hit of the 80s, was in fact a British number 22 way back in January 1977. His final paragraph (“but like the hits of the 80s, Palace will survive”) appears to be a woeful pun on the Gloria Gaynor hit I Will Survive. Sadly for David, this was a British number one in February 1979. Close, but no cigar.
Mike Phipps, Rickmansworth

Dear WSC
Mike Bateson’s letter (WSC 272) mentioned Brentford’s visit to Southampton in the FA Cup and, in particular, manager Martin Allen’s naked swim in the Solent. I was within earshot of the technical areas at St Mary’s for that match and hence could hear practically every word that Allen was shouting to his players. They say football is a simple game and Martin certainly kept his instructions clear and to the point. For 90 minutes he only shouted one thing, which was repeated dozens of times with much passion. All he said was: “Fucking hit ’em!” As Brentford achieved a draw it could be argued that his approach was successful.
Tim Manns, Jersey

Dear WSC
During a recent matchday conversation about strange away kits, I suddenly recalled that Sheffield Wednesday once had a dark red away strip that was officially described as “aubergine”. Furthermore it was said to have been designed by their manager at the time, Howard Wilkinson. But now I can’t find any reference to this in Rothmans back copies. Can it all have been a vivid dream?
David Waring, Ludlow

Dear WSC
Is is not time that Frank Lampard gave up his mawkish and frankly toe-curling goal celebration in commemoration of his mother? The eyes gazing skyward plus arms and index fingers spread in supplication are increasingly irritating. Time to grow up and accept that, however unpalatable, most people have lost a loved one. These exhibitionist displays are totally unnecessary – he should find ways to express his thoughts in a private manner as the majority of normal folk do.
Peter Grant, Northampton

Dear WSC
I was very disappointed by Cris Freddi’s negative whinge about Wembley Stadium (WSC 272). Complaining about a lack of marble or the type of urinals almost made me wonder if he was joking, but I think he was serious. It seems to me that Cris was determined to hate Wembley and generally be miserable about going before he went. I’ve been to the new Wembley twice for League Two play-offs featuring Shrewsbury Town. Both times we’ve lost. If anyone had a right to whine about Wembley being rubbish I guess I do. But, realistically, as a mass ticket holder entertainment venue I think it’s pretty good. There are decent spaces in the concourses I was in, the food was better than you get in many football grounds (although, do try asking for a veggieburger – the shock freaked out the youth serving me), and overall my experience was positive, even if the results weren’t. I went to the old Wembley twice as well and remember being disappointed. We were a long way from the pitch and it was hard to see what was happening. The building felt cramped and there was a distinct smell of urine pretty much everywhere I went. I’m not sure you could ever “bowl up on the night” and get tickets for internationals. That doesn’t seem very likely over the last decade or so. I’m not sure what Cris meant with his reference to the length of time it took to get to the railway station. On my most recent trip I took the train to Wembley Stadium station and was at the stadium in about ten minutes, which I felt was reasonable. It took me longer to find my mum and dad in the throng around the Bobby Moore statue than it did to get from the railway station to the stadium. Incidentally, Shrewsbury hold two interesting records for the new Wembley – first goal scored by a Football League team in a domestic fixture and first player sent off for a League team, both in the League Two play-off defeat to Bristol Rovers. Small consolation for losing, perhaps, but no complaints about the venue.
Jon Matthias, Cardiff

Dear WSC
I wholeheartedly agree with the football points Cris Freddi made about the revamped Wembley Stadium (Arch Enemy) in WSC 272. During a visit for the England v Estonia match in 2007 my heart sank at paying £4.50 for a pie and scenes of “old timers” trying to rally the newer England supporters around them into song. The decision never to watch England at Wembley again was sealed early in the second half, when I noticed a young man enter our part of the stadium, seeking out his seat for the match. A few designer shopping bags in each hand told me where he had spent the first half of the match. Watching England at Wembley had indeed changed. I was somewhat confused with the political points in (what I had to check) was the same article. Aren’t football crowds meant to be a reflection of society and that includes those serving members of the armed forces on the pitch, waving to their friends and families in the stands? If such scenes are comparable to Nuremberg Rallies may I suggest Cris Freddi gives the FA Cup final a miss, with its upsetting imagery of a military brass band playing Abide with Me and a soldier/sailor/airman transporting the FA Cup on to the pitch. I do concede that actual displays of militarism are not welcome at internationals. Before kick-off at Azerbaijan v England in 2007, an Azeri army sniper team based in a tower next to the away section politely asked some supporters not to tie an England flag in their “vision of fire”. Despite regiments of Azeri army conscripts being stationed around the pitch to beef up security and add to the match atmosphere, it was left to England keeper Paul Robinson to apprehend a lone Azeri pitch invader during the match. I sometimes wonder how that protester is shaping up today as the last time I saw him a soldier appeared to be dragging the unfortunate off the pitch by his scrotum.
Paul Whitaker, Silsden

Dear WSC
The reference in the book extract in WSC 272 to Allan Brown breaking his leg “while scoring his side’s semi-final winner” in 1953 is inaccurate. The match was the FA Cup sixth round which finished Arsenal 1, Blackpool 2. I know because I was a young Blackpool supporter at the time and was right behind the goal where it happened.  Allan recovered to resume his career with Blackpool and Luton but was never quite the same player again.
Doug Hall, Huntingdon

Dear WSC
A few weeks ago I went on a golfing weekend to Southport, staying at a friend’s  parents’ house. As a big fan of football trivia, I particularly enjoyed my friend’s dad lamenting the fact that Altrincham are never mentioned as giantkillers when this subject comes up in in most FA Cup TV coverage. This is despite the fact, as he pointed out to me, that Altrincham were the last, and one of only two, non-League teams to beat a top-division team at their own ground in the FA Cup. The day after coming back from my golf weekend, I saw these points accurately summarised in the account of Altrincham’s history of cup upsets in WSC 272. This gives the article a ringing endorsement, as my friend’s dad was the captain of Altrincham on the night that they beat Birmingham, as pictured in the bottom left photo of the article. For those who share my passion for trivia, he is also the most capped non-League England player with 24 appearances.
Will Kumar, Kentish Town

Dear WSC
Richard Pulford (WSC 272) is unhappy people don’t give Altrincham the credit they deserve, and is particularly aggrieved that the team’s 2-1 FA Cup win at Birmingham in 1986 seems to have slipped from memory. Yet there is more to this story than at first you might expect. I lived in England at the time and can clearly remember Birmingham were playing so wretchedly that they were almost expected to come a cropper. By the time Birmingham met Altrincham they had lost 14 and drawn two of their previous 16 League games, so their defeat didn’t honestly come as that much of a surprise. The team also lost seven and drew one of their final eight games and were relegated with just 29 points.
David Ljunggren, Ottawa, Canada

Dear WSC,
Further to the Season in Brief feature in WSC 271 and Alex Turpie’s letter in WSC 272 on the farcical nature of Torpedo Moscow’s travails, it might be worth adding that there is yet another Torpedo playing at the third level of Russian football (one above FC Torpedo). This team goes by the name of FC Torpedo-ZIL, renamed from Torpedo-RG after a buy-out earlier this year. FC Torpedo-RG was formed in 2005 as the second attempt by ZIL to resurrect its car factory side as the original team was sold in 1996. They first tried in 1997 but that Torpedo was sold to a company called Norilskiy Nickel and became known as FC Torpedo-Metallurg in 2003, before becoming Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov’s plaything as FC Moskva. They are currently playing in the Russian top flight, finishing as high as fourth in 2007. Let’s not forget SC Torpedo, a feeder club to the current FC Torpedo-ZIL, playing alongside FC Torpedo in Moscow Division A. The three Torpedos along with FC Mosvka all play at the original Torpedo home, the Streltsov stadium, with Moskva and ZIL using the main pitch and the other two teams playing on the reserve one. In the meantime, FC Torpedo and FC Torpedo-ZIL both continue to lay claim to the spirit of Torpedo as the complicated existence of a once-proud name of Soviet football enters its 13th year.
Sasha Goryunov, London

From WSC 273 November 2009

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