Along with Alastair Walker and Dave Bartley (Letters, WSC No 138 and 139), I also feel that too many of your correspondents are obsessive about subjects that are essentially trivial. I must point out, though, that Bam Bam wasn’t actually adopted in the conventional way. Barney and Betty Rubble found him.
Matthew Rees, Downend
At both Swansea away matches I have attended so far this season – at Cambridge and Mansfield – there have been pre-match sponsored promotions for Scientology. Are L Ron Hubbard’s disciples launching a general push among football supporters, or have they just concluded that there is sufficient demoralization and mental confusion among Swansea’s away following (not to mention our back four) to make them a particularly promising market?
Huw Richards, London E17
I would like to commend Eurosport for their public-spiritedness in giving people plucked at random from the street an opportunity to commentate on international football matches. The latest batch of plucky amateurs to have a go took the viewers on a round-up of some early Euro 2000 qualifiers. It was a pretty grim listening experience, sad to say, consisting of little more than a string of cliches dotted with woeful mispronunciations. The most alarming depths were plumbed when the man filling us in on Cyprus v Spain pointed out on several occasions that the Spanish were the only team in their group, which includes Austria, to have played in the 1998 World Cup finals. I know the Austrians did themselves little credit in France but there can be no mistaking the fact that they took part. The source of our man’s confusion became clearer when he subsequently refer to them as “Australia”. Still, not to worry, it was probably his first go. At the end of the broadcast, I noticed that an “Angus Loughran” was credited as having been one of the two hapless commentators. Odd that there should be two people with such a distinctive name. I’m not prepared to consider, even for a moment, that this might the same Angus Loughran who has actively cultivated an image as a smug super-nerd on Fantasy Football. Indeed, I imagine that the real Angus will have been appalled by his namesake’s utter ineptitude were he unlucky enough to hear it.
Wayne Menzies, Lutterworth
I am not sure that Harry Pearson is correct with his claim that Arsenal are the Middlesbrough supporters’ least favourite club. I had always thought it was Sunderland. Equally, if Tom Lynn thinks that Middlesbrough are of no particular concern to Sunderland supporters, it is about time that he saw the two clubs play each other, though he may have to wait a while. Between 1876 and 1883, when Newcastle West End merged with Newcastle East End to create the first club to use the name United, Middlesbrough and Sunderland met regularly in games that seem to have been fought as much as played. However, both teams played games of a similar sort against Stockton, who seem to have been the top club in the North East in those days. Tom Lynn is right about one thing. If we leave Hartlepool and Darlington to their own concerns, there is only one North East derby, this season.
William Lucas, London E7
Far be it for me to encourage yet more tedious pedantry among correspondents, but I am obliged to correct Dundee Utd fan George Duncan who alleged that Love Is In The Air was re-corded by John Paul Jones. He was the bassist from Led Zeppelin who looked like a slightly raffish maths teacher. The song was in fact recorded by Australian one-hit wonder John Paul Young. A certain John Paul Joans had a minor hit around Christmas 1971 with a forgettable number called Man From Nazareth. I hope this clears it up for you.
Ian Cusack, Newcastle
In reply to Andy Lopata’s comments made in WSC No 139 concerning the rights and wrongs of the Sun’s jingoism, I would like to say that he and many others have missed the point. That is, nobody has the right to call themselves a genuine football fan if they even read the Sun, let alone advertise for them freely by donning one of their bowler hats, after the disgraceful articles they published in the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy. My feeling is that too many football “fans” are not aware of the episode in 1989 and, like Andy Lopata, think football is a game that was invented in 1992 by Sky TV.
Michael Harrington, Portsmouth
In response to Andrew Brindle’s letter (WSC No 139) about Slough’s fan-friendly toilets, may I point out that this phenomenon was not entirely unique. Rochdale’s ground used to have a very charming away end, graced with the world’s most uneven terracing. This provided away fans with the exciting opportunity of seeing themselves on Football League Extra running down to the fence to celebrate a goal with every single one of them looking at where they were going in order to avoid a wrenched ankle or two. This away end also provided us more well-brought up fans with a unique opportunity to pee directly on to the fungus-covered and gradually crumbling brick wall that was the away Gents toilet (you had to pee at the wall – trying to direct it into the broken and twisted plastic guttering on the floor was asking for a mouthwash). To distract you from this awful experience the wall was only about five and a half feet tall, so the less vertically challenged were able to watch the game whilst getting their socks sprayed. And at least it didn’t smell like the ones at Darlington.
Jim Castle, via email
I loved the illustrations of stadiums representing the various leagues in your 1998-99 preview (WSC No 139). However, you’ve got it wrong. The First Division has got all the best stadiums whilst the Premiership has embarked on a process of tatty make do and mend. Sunderland’s Wearmouth Stadium (aka the Stadium of Light to the directors) is without doubt the best football stadium in the country, and the only one which corresponds to the illustration under your Premier League title. It may not be quite as big as Old Trafford and Anfield, but it is incomparably better than these two dog’s dinners of grounds with appendages added everywhere. If you want examples of the type of stadium in your illustration of the First Division, you need to look no further than Leicester, Chelsea and Newcastle to mention just a few. Yes, if you want crap grounds look no further than the Premiership. If you want brilliant grounds for the 21st century, try the First Division but be quick, this is only a one season offer at the Wearmouth stadium.
Arthur McArdle, Holmes Chapel
Andrew Fraser (Stewards Inquiry, WSC No 139) is quite right to reassert Lord Justice Taylor’s point that “complacency is the enemy of safety”. But it’s a shame that, having milked me extensively for his quotes, he didn’t bother to comply with normal journalistic practice and take up my offer to check his piece for factual accuracy before it was published. Whilst I would agree they are vigilant, I have no recollection of describing Lancashire Council as “hard-arsed bastards when it comes to ground safety”, nor would I ever wish to so describe them in print.
Steve Frosdick, Hounslow
As someone who is no fan of a European super league, I think there is a danger that we might all miss the key point. The disease is as bad as the cure. UEFA acts as if the 19th century is about to dawn rather than the 21st. After all, to have a rule that if a club takes UEFA to court it is automatically banned from their European competitions must be the dream of many an authoritarian organization. Two recent examples demonstrate their arbitrary diktats. First was the attempt to punish the Premiership’s refusal to decrease its size by removing a place from the winners of the Coca-Cola Cup. Its logic beggars description. Its procedures were worse. The only way it was forced to back down was when the European Commission threatened legal action because of “abuse of a dominant position”. Second is the more recent procedural acrobatics regarding participation in European competitions by more than one club in the same ownership. In February, UEFA gave such participation a clean bill of health. In May, they banned it, adding insult to injury by devising some mystical formula for choosing which of the competing clubs has performed better in the past, when surely the whole point is who is doing better now. Again driven to back down for a year by legal action and the threat of European intervention. One could add other examples. UEFA is in danger of getting exactly what it deserves. Certainly it has few, if any, friends amongst the clubs or fans. The only obstacle to a resounding cheer for the organizers of the “super league” is that under their management it is likely to be worse, with games “live” at midnight to fit in with the programming schedule of Silvio Berlusconi’s TV stations. If UEFA is to have any wholehearted support in fighting off the mugging of European football, it will have to be on a stronger basis than merely being the better of the worst. That means UEFA will have to come quickly into the late 20th century and pay some serious attention to those it purports to represent rather than the arbitrary, unaccountable, secretive and conspiratorial body it is now.
Glyn Ford, MEP for Greater Manchester East
Can we start the season all over again, please? Every day there seems to be more bad news: Sky muscling in on Man Utd, super leagues here there and everywhere, morale in the England team at rock bottom because no respects Glenn anymore. After such a quiet close season, post-World Cup, I’ve been thoroughly unprepared for the catastrophes that have unfolded since. What I suggest is that sometime over the next couple of months, we all synchronise our thoughts on trying to turn back time, so returning the world to how it was the day after the end of France ’98. I think it’s something to with channelling energies but I’ll have to get a book out of the library to check. Word will be passed around so prepare yourselves (sorry Charlton, after your good start and all).
Trevor Bentley, Greenwich
A layman might be baffled by Middlesbrough’s dogged pursuit of the wayward Duncan Ferguson, for whom they recently offered £10 million, especially in the wake of their bid for the gung-ho gambler and occasional pugilist, Keith Gillespie. A few of us have realized what Bryan Robson is up to, however. He has obviously seen the film The Dirty Dozen in which, you’ll recall, a group of dispensable reprobates are sent out to perform acts of daring behind enemy lines. Determined to prove their detractors wrong, they successfully complete a hazardous mission, unfazed by the carnage left in their wake. The Riverside will soon be home to a comparable elite squad of social misfits (Paul Gascoigne you already know about) with only Paul Merson letting the side down by scarpering before all the pieces have been slotted into place. Robbo deserves all the plaudits he will get for his brave gamble – the Boro will walk the First Division next season, you watch.
Brian Hopwood, Whitby
From WSC 140 October 1998. What was happening this month