THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
The article in WSC No 144 about the strange man who looks after the FA Cup reminded me of another story involving the same trophy. Back in 1980, I was working on Record Breakers (look, we’ve all got rent to pay) and I suggested we do an item about football that involved getting all four major trophies (the League, the Charity Shield, and the FA and League Cups) into the studio. Come the day the championship trophy and the Charity Shield were delivered by Securicor from Liverpool. Both were in highly polished wooden boxes as you would expect. The League Cup was delivered from Molineux, also by a security firm and also in its own polished wooden box. The FA Cup, however, was delivered from West Ham in a black cab – wrapped in a pillow case. To cap it all, the cabbie turned out to be a right miserable bugger. Handing me the pillow case he said, “I’m a West Ham fan and this is the first time I get a call to go there. Do I pick up anyone involved in the club? No, I get a fucking pillowcase to deliver.” I didn’t tell him what was in the pillowcase. It’s always given me great pleasure to think that there’s a London cabbie out there who’s missed a great opportunity to say, “’Ere, you’ll never guess what I had in my cab the other day..." One of the carpenters in the studio was a West Ham fan. Heartbroken at the way his club had treated the FA Cup, he built a mahogany box for it. The Cup was returned to the Hammers in the box. Ten years later, Spurs won the cup and it was brought into the LWT studios where I was then working. It was still in the box built by the BBC carpenter.
Robin Carr, Chesham

Dear WSC
With England’s World Cup 2006 bid gathering momentum (loans to the Welsh FA aside), it is necessary to ask whether a country with one of the worst hooligan records at France 98 should be granted the honour of hosting such a tournament. Perhaps during the selection process FIFA might also care to consider the violent reaction in many parts of England to Germany’s semi- final victory in Euro 96. Nice stadia, mind you. I know “it’s only a small minority”, but why then can’t they be controlled? I can’t believe that such a small handful of criminals are beyond the control of the authorities. Instead of redeveloping Wembley stadium, maybe the focus of the lottery funding should be on finding an adequate solution to this long-standing problem. The crazy thing is, even with this background many people still believe England’s bid will be successful. Worse than that, it probably will, too.
Tom Simpson, Abu Dhabi

Dear WSC
I thought I was the only person who noticed it, but Cris Freddi highlighted my high point of 1998, Liechtenstein’s first win over Azerbaijan (WSC No 144). As someone who normally plays Liechtenstein in World Cup computer games, I was ecstatic. However, I have not read or seen any other coverage of it. Can you not contact your Liechtenstein stringer for a full match report, along with witty asides about the Azerbaijani defensive line up? Life will somehow be empty until you do.
Ken Harvey, via email

Dear WSC
I resisted answering Ian Cusack’s letter about football in Coronation Street (WSC No 143) but, following the reply from William Rankin in the last issue, I feel obliged to recall Eddie Duncan’s transfer from Weatherfield County to Torquay United. The news broke one Monday night in 1973. Initially I rolled around in mirth before becoming mortally offended. We’d only recently been relegated and, still proud of our (old) Third Division heritage, I saw this as an example of cruel Northern piss-taking. In those days most Torquay Grammar sixth-formers were too busy with something called Progressive Music to have time for fripperies such as Coronation Street or Torquay United. A friend and I were virtually alone in watching both and were able to share Eddie Duncan as a private joke for the rest of term. Had we been more inventive, and carried greater clout in the Plainmoor mini-stand, we could have started a classic chant: “Who Needs Eddie Duncan When We’ve Got Eddie Rowles?”  Nevertheless, they say life imitates art. Years later, in 1992, Julie Goodyear visited Plainmoor in the company of Justin Fashanu. She even pulled the final ceremonial pint in the old social club. Eddie, I hear, was there alone with his Newton and Ridley’s and memories of halcyon days.
Nick House, Taunton

Dear WSC

Shane Warne and Mark Waugh have admitted that they were offered large sums of money by “far eastern syndicates” to influence one-day international cricket matches. On their own they obviously couldn’t guarantee a result. Even if they threw their wickets away and bowled like drains it would not make anything certain, but all the same bribes were (allegedly) offered. This is the point missed by Matthew Roche’s article (Score To Settle?, WSC No 144) on the Segers/Grobbelaar/ ­Fash­anu trial. What the people offering the bribes are attempting to do is swing the odds. If they know that one significant person in any sporting event is not trying, then they will probably consider that having got on at evens for what has become effectively a 4-6 chance is a good result. These are the statistics that matter to these people. They are not so stupid that they think a score or result can be guaranteed, but over a period of time they expect to be ahead. It is virtually impossible to determine whether a footballer deliberately makes mis­­takes or not. But there are many other rumours and I think we are a long way from hearing the last about this.
Clive Pacey, via email

Dear WSC

What with the recent sending-off of Wee Gordon and various other managers jumping on the bandwagon to complain at over-zealous officialdom, I thought it an appropriate time to share my foolproof and simple way of getting around this problem. With five substitutes named but only three allowed to be used, bearing in mind that one of the five is usually a goalkeeper, this leaves a “spare” substitute. Why don’t managers register them­selves as players and take this spare spot. This would allow them to run up and down the touchline without hindrance in the name of warming up. Not only would this bring the obvious advantages (passing on instruct­ions etc), but imagine the effect on crowds during a lull in games – for example, the Forest fans’ reaction at Big Ron rumbling down the line, or the Gooners standing to observe Arsène’s star jumps while passing on instructions to Lee Dixon. Surely I can’t be the only person to have thought of this idea and am flummoxed as to why nobody has implemented it yet. When it does start to become common practice (and it will), remember where you heard it first.
Phil Griffiths, via email

Dear WSC

As a nationalist who follows both football and Gaelic games I have no more time for the Gaelic Athletic Association’s childish attitude towards the use of its facilities for football than Davy Millar (WSC No 144). But his recounting of the events surrounding one of many proposed fund-raising sporting events following the Omagh bombing paints an incomplete picture. To be fair it should be pointed out that no other sporting organisation in Ireland raised more money for the Omagh Appeal Fund than the GAA, who themselves lost several members in the tragedy. As well as collecting money from its members all over the island, the GAA donated the gate receipts from the All-Ireland hurling semi-final second replay between Clare and Offaly a week after the bombing, raising more than £250,000 in the process. As ever in Ireland, when it comes to sport and politics there are (at least) two sides to every story.
Stephen McKillop, Randalstown

Dear WSC
Good to see that Davy Millar’s one-sided view of football in Northern Ireland has not changed. The man who previously concluded that the FAI was out to get their IFA neighbours has struck again in his article, (Long Division WSC No 144). Millar misses a major point in dealing with the games between British teams and Omagh Town (not Omagh FC). Why is the St Enda’s ground so much better than St Jalian’s Road? Simply because Omagh is solid Gaelic Athletic Association territory with limited support for football. Surely it would be wiser to play the games at Windsor Park, where the bigger crowds would mean extra money. The author’s attempt to link the GAA with anti-English bigotry is not only wrong but insulting. The GAA does not permit football mainly be­­­-cause its popularity represents a threat to the continuation of Gaelic sports, something that a circus like American gridiron never can.“Much maligned” Donegal Celtic: maligned by who? Probably the same bigots who think that the GAA is a bastion of republicanism. Donegal Celtic play their football in a nationalist heartland where most people have a severe mistrust, even hatred, of the RUC. Had Donegal Celtic played their match they could have damaged their standing in the eyes of their own community. Yes, it is unfortunate that football and politics have overlapped, but alas this is common in the world. Of course most readers will tut at this fact because it does not happen in England. Don’t get me wrong, Davy Millar can talk sense, as he did by rightly attacking the proposed “Belfast United”, a death knell for local football if ever I heard one. But too often he looks at foot­ball from his own political viewpoint and refuses to consider other views. As they say in Belfast, Davy, catch yourself on.
John Morrow, Belfast

Dear WSC

Am I in a minority of one in thinking that a biennial World Cup is a good idea? Just what is it that people are so against? The demise of the European Championships? I doubt it. Failure to qualify is, by and large, shrugged off (eg losing to Denmark in 1983) when compared to, say, the draw with Poland that cost England’s place at the 1974 World Cup. This tournament is the Worthington Cup of international football, a smaller, crappier version of the real thing which only its creators value.  So is it the overkill factor? The thought that by having the World Cup every two years it would lose its magic appeal. It’s as if FIFA are suggesting that because Christmas is so good we should have one in June too. Would the World Cup really die if it were a continuously rolling competition with qualifiers for the next tournament starting almost straight after the last? I mean, does the FA Cup lose its value when those preliminary rounds begin weeks after the final? Only Europe organises a competition of any significance between World Cups and even then it’s only since 1980 that it has been staged in a style comparable to the real thing. The quicker these time-consuming imitations are replaced by a two-yearly World Cup the better: no more half-hearted qualifiers, no more scrapping to host far-off events and a competition where novelty value is replaced by actual knowledge of your international opponents. Roll on World Cup 2008.
James Tuite, Waltham Cross

Dear WSC
Am I imagining this or has Robbie Fowler’s sticking plaster been steadily shifting downwards from its original position on the bridge of his nose? With any luck, it should reach his mouth by the end of the season.
Tom Locke, Edinburgh

Dear WSC
If there is one thing to be learnt from Swansea City’s success in this year’s FA Cup it is the one that explains to me where Harry Enfield’s sidekick Charlie Higson got the idea for his Ralf character in the Ted and Ralf sketches. It may be too late now but anyone still possessing John Hollins’s post-match interviews, especially those after the Derby defeat, should take another look and tell me if they can spot the difference.
Keith Chapman, London NW2

Dear WSC

I want to make an appeal to your readers. On October 24th last year, I rang Talk Radio in response to a plea from the presenter Danny Baker, who asked to hear from anyone who attempted to go to two matches that were postponed on the same day, with £50 on offer to anyone who got on the air. I’d had an experience like this one Boxing Day, when a game was called off due to an unfit pitch and another with a power cut, so I rang in and after hanging on the line for about an hour, I told my story. Danny Baker’s last words to me were, “My friend you have just won £50,” then I was cut off. That was the last I heard from him or Talk Radio. I phoned back to leave my address but since then three more phone calls and three letters have been ignored. I want to take my case to the Radio Authority but need some independent witnesses. If anyone else has been similarly treated, or if there are any readers who listened to the programme on October 24th, and can remember my story, I would be grateful if they could contact me via the editor of the Macclesfield Town Supporters Club Newsletter, Moss Rose, London Rd, Macclesfield SK11 7SP.
PM Miles, Macclesfield

Dear WSC

In recent years it has become commonplace for football managers, asked during post-match interviews to talk through a spectacular goal by one of their players, to moan bitterly, “Well, if a Brazilian or an Italian had scored that, they’d be showing it on television every five minutes.” Exactly what evidence these wounded managers base this assertion on remains to be seen. I’ve yet to see This Morning interrupt Richard Madeley’s 374th discussion of his vasectomy to show a blistering free kick from Roberto Carlos or a delicate chip from Christian Vieri. It would certainly enliven EastEnders if the action was halted every five minutes to bring us the latest scre­amers from the Spanish Primera Liga. And who exactly are these fifth col­umnists, this clandestine legion of narrow-minded television directors and producers, covertly filling skips with miles and miles of videotape of good old-fashioned English goals, while simultaneously force-feeding us a rich diet of cosmopolitan strikes? The only rational explanation I can find for this increasingly common remark is that it is somehow linked with a subliminal campaign to persuade television executives to broadcast Nationwide League Extra at a sensible time. In which case I can only enthusiastically endorse its usage.
Chris Hughes, Chester

Dear WSC

Call me pedantic or what you will, but isn’t it about time the old phrase “pack­ed to the rafters” was laid to rest in radio commentary on big games these days? Surely if a stadium is all-seater then the ground is either full to capacity or not, unless the Premier League clubs have found away to book more than one spectator per seat. And another thing. How many folk, like me, are continually irritated by the number of callers to 6.06 who waste valuable airtime by asking David Mellor how he is? I haven’t actually become so obsessed as to run a count, but on the recent FA Cup fourth round weekend it seemed to be every other caller. There is a simple way to stop this silliness. If people ringing in are seriously concerned about the egregious one’s welfare, might I suggest that intending contributors listen very carefully to Mellor’s answer to the first caller to pose the question (the answer is routinely “I’m fine”, except on days when Chelsea lose). Armed with this invaluable gobbet of knowledge, people can get straight to the point. His mental or physical well-being is unlikely to seriously alter during the space of a few on-air conversations. I don’t recall Richard Littlejohn having the same problem, confronting each caller as he does with a brusque “What do you want to say?” And anyone enquiring similarly of Danny Baker would probably have been told to piss off.
Mike Fenton, Worcester

Dear WSC

I know you operate a strict “no pedants” policy on the letters page, but there were two food-related issues in WSC No 144 I feel I must correct. First, Matthew Hall claims Mark Viduka “craved Weetabix” in Zagreb – yet Mark (or Marko) would surely have craved the distinctive Australian “Weetbix” rather than its inferior British cousin. Second, you state in the answers to the quiz that Dave Beasant injured himself by dropping a mayonnaise bottle on his foot. No disrespect to Dave’s palate, but I distinctly remember it as salad cream.
Craig Hanlon, Brighton

From WSC 145 March 1999. What was happening this month

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