THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
The recent screening of the 1975 FA Cup final by ITV unearthed disturbing memories that had remained buried deep inside me for over two decades.  The need to unburden myself of this long-forgotten trauma has its origins in the Fulham full-back on that occasion, John Cutbush, and in the commentary of David Coleman on the BBC coverage of the final. Others may remember West Ham’s clash with Fulham for the performances of Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds, but not me and my equally strange chums.  For some reason, Coleman clearly pronounced the Fulham No 2’s surname in a curious and outlandish way, approximating to “Cootboosh”. As were many at the time, we were particularly sensitised to Coleman’s verbal meanderings, and this caused much mirth as we sat gathered around the television.  Later that evening we returned repeatedly to Coleman’s creative licence with Cutbush, culminating inevitably (beer involved here) in further elaborations and versions of the name. Good Saturday night fun, you’ll no doubt think.  However, things did not end there, as maybe they should have done. For months, nay years afterwards, blameless pub-goers were subjected to increasingly theatrical, elongated and continental versions of the basic ‘John Cutbush’. I particularly remember a friend rolling around as if possessed on top of a pool table and wailing out a six-minute Germano- Hispanic variation, prior to being ejected by the landlord.  I suppose in time we all moved on from this phase in our lives, some of us to pursue promising careers, establish stable relationships and have families. But none of us will ever really rid ourselves of the spirit of John Cutbush. Where is he now? And what were you thinking of, David Coleman?
Steve Edwards, Birkenhead

Dear WSC
Ed Horton was spot-on with his demolition job of the appalling role performed by the television pundits in WSC No 133.  It’s something that was amply illustrated for me recently, while flipping idly through one of the glossies in WH Smith. I was genuinely shocked to read Radio 5’s Alan Green passionately slagging off Pat Crerand. It was the sort of opinion that you or I might express every day of the week, but to be surprised to read that kind of thing in the mainstream football press shows how bad things have got.  Meanwhile, the depths were really plumbed during the coverage of the Newcastle-Stevenage debacle. Witness Barry Venison nobly leaping to the defence of plucky Newcastle, after the non-League club had had the temerity to take exception to Kenny Dalglish’s objections to their ground, and then to hold them to a draw.  Venison criticised Stevenage for “running to the media”, a bit rich coming from someone using prime time TV to vent his opinions to eight million people. Then John Barnes shamelessly claimed that Newcastle had behaved “with dignity” throughout the whole row.  Outrageously, Bob Wilson failed to challenge either of their opinions. Maybe he shared them, but it’s just not good enough to instigate a ‘discussion’ and chair it as though you’re auditioning for a job on the Iraqi version of Newsnight.  Throughout, the message was clear, non-League players and officials should automatically look upon their professional brethren with a mixture of fear and respect, whether they’re a bunch of desperate whingers or not. And where were the semi-professionals to put the opposite viewpoint? Erm…  The frustrating thing is, Venison, Barnes and the likes of Mark Lawrenson are rich men thanks to Kenny Dalglish. Of course they’re not going to slag him and his club off. It’s the same reason Trevor Brooking hilariously criticised Wrexham last season for daring to draw with West Ham on a pitch that was just too icy for superior Premiership tootsies. Jimmy Hill is retiring after the World Cup, apparently. Looks like all those years he spent spouting ridiculous idiosyncrasies could soon be regarded as a golden age of free-thinking contemplation.
Chris Hughes, Chester

Dear WSC

There are a few obvious points that arise from the responses (Letters, WSC No 133) to my original article on Fulham that I would like to comment on.  Ashley Manning suggests that Fulham are “staring success in the face”. Fortunately for football, the simple injection of cash does not (yet) constitute footballing success, while the statement that Kev and Ray are “proven winners” is something that the fans of Newcastle and QPR might be willing to argue over.  Fulham may now have financial security, but old Mohammed is not exactly what might be asked of a saviour. Quite apart from the controversies outside football which keep our new chairman forever on the front pages, his long-term commitment to Fulham can, to say the least, be questioned.  Moreover, in the light of the experience of other clubs after much-hailed takeovers (Oxford especially come to mind) surely, as life-long supporters of a club, we should look carefully at who we are, so to speak, leaping into bed with. Football’s supporters have little or no influence on events, yet if we all hail whatever tarnished white knight comes along , we are asking for that special feeling of betrayal that comes when the dream goes belly up.  If, God forbid, the worst did happen, I’ve no doubt that Ashley would still be there, along with the rest of the Cottage faithful who have kept Fulham alive through the bleakest of times. However, far from gaining the sympathy of the rest of football I would imagine that most of the supporters of other clubs would simply look at any sudden fall from grace for Fulham as a salutary lesson. The hate of other supporters does not simply come from an inability on their team’s behalf to beat your team. Bournemouth beat us 1-0 the other night, but I’m pretty sure that, in their own way, they sill hate us.  I hope it doesn’t happen and that Fulham reach the sunny uplands of the Premier League, that Ray becomes the Alex Ferguson of the next decade, and that Mohammed finally gets the recognition from the British establishment that he so craves. But Ashley, this is Fulham we’re talking about.
Scott Longley, Windsor

Dear WSC

So Man Utd fans aren’t allowed to stand up (WSC No 133). Well poor them, after having to cope with all that success too. They should come and watch a game in the Third Division some time.  You get to stand up for as long as you want (on a terrace – remember them?), you’re close to the ‘action’, totally safe from all that plc propaganda and merchandise, people still sing and shout and you get to be all smug about being a real fan. OK, the football’s not great (to put it mildly) but the ground is probably a lot nearer home than Old Trafford. Sorry, couldn’t resist that last bit.
Martin Johnes, Cardiff

Dear WSC

I tell you what’s amusing me at the minute, the outbreak of wisecracking Presbyterian Scottish managers in the Premiership. George, Kenny, Alex and Gordon are making post match interviews the funniest bits of the whole football industry.  There’s Coventry: poetry up front and doggerel at the back. Some halfwit in defence, Richard Shaw generally, falls over and takes out an opposition forward. Gordon knows the red card is mandatory, but plays along by pretending that David Elleray and his mates have a vendetta against the Sky Blues. Of course it’s all forgotten in the bar afterwards over a few banana and seaweed daiquiris.  Up at Old Trafford Ferguson, exuding Zen-like calm, sees Barnsley denied a clear penalty and pretends to argue with another witty Caledonian, Andy Gray. His contention that Man Utd hardly get any penalties is a canard. What he actually means is that whenever the Corinthians of M16 get an undeserved penalty, they deliberately miss it. Witness Teddy Sheringham’s last half dozen spot kicks.  The best double act, though, must be Kenny Dalglish and George Graham. Kenny’s big spoof is to turn Keegan’s Kommandoes into Jim Smith’s Stumblers reincarnated, whilst pretending they’re playing like Holland in 1974. George sends his Leeds team out at St James’ Park to kick north-eastern arses in a way not seen since Get Carter. At full-time, with seven of his lot booked, he quips he felt his team ought to have had at least four penalties. Priceless. Although Kenny’s retort that Ketsbaia’s fortuitous equaliser was the first time Newcastle had benefited from a last-minute piece of fortune was so tongue-in-cheek it could be seen as fraudulent. Just ask supporters of Everton, Spurs, Leicester, Bolton and, indeed, Leeds about last minute changes of fortune at St James’ Park.
Ian Cusack, Newcastle

Dear WSC

Kevin McElhinney (Letters, WSC No 133) has got Kevin Keegan absolutely bang to rights. Keegan has always surpassed himself in stating bunker-loads of insane drivel, but his repeat performance on ITV’s Cup replay special, with a heart-bypass operation as a back-drop, was different class.  As highly amusing as Di Canio’s red card was, my understanding of Keegan’s post-highlight analysis on the matter was: “Well the lad is Italian, hot-headed and the referee has got to take that into account. I think he’s unlucky to be sent off.” Just how subjective do you want referees to be, Kev?  Perhaps all players should hand the referee a list of mitigating reasons which he could consider if the player performs a deed which could lead to a card. For example: my tin opener broke and I was unable to have my usual pre-match baked beans; I lost £50 on the 2.50 at Kempton and I had £10 on Bruce Grobbelaar to score the first goal again; I am slightly miffed that I couldn’t find anything to buy in the January sales. You know how it is.  Any of these take your fancy Kev? However, my all-time Keegan classic is one that the drivel-master has uttered twice, always, for obvious reasons, late in the game: “Yeah, it looks to me Brian as if the lad has got a touch of cramp, and as every amateur footballer knows cramp can be, and usually is, worse than a broken leg.”  What? Correct me if I’m wrong but neither pulling your foot back nor salt tablets have ever been heralded as cures for broken legs. Kevin. Please. Sort yourself out. Get a proper job.
Matthew Dixon, Sheffield

Dear WSC

Here’s a poser for the learned and erudite among the readership: how and why did ‘United’ become a common term appended to football clubs?  One presumes it had something to do with clubs merging, but I’ve never come across an answer.
Frank Plowright, via email

Dear WSC

Tony Kinsella (Letters, WSC No 133) may not have noticed that Sky are ahead of ITV when it comes to on-screen scoreline abbreviations. For the Coke Cup tie earlier this season between Celtic and Dunfermline, they had cunningly shortened Celtic to ‘Celtic’ and Dunfermline to ‘Dunfer’, thus neatly summarising the Fifers’ fate as well as their name.
Micky Ross, via email

Dear WSC

I enjoyed reading Ed Horton’s feature on football and TV (WSC No 133), which made some valid points about the shallowness of analysis by certain pundits.  However, I must take issue with his comments about Teletext and its columnist Tommy Docherty. He says that “aging pundits are wheeled out because of who they were, not what they know, and that for some reason their involvement in football some years ago makes them authorities today”.  In Docherty’s case, it’s precisely because of what he knows and because of who he was (manager of his country and several clubs including Chelsea and Man Utd) that Teletext asked him to contribute a weekly column.  To describe Docherty’s record as “involvement” in football some years ago is an understatement to say the least. Docherty’s views are as valid as those of any ‘pundit’ – they are opinions held by him which will hopefully provoke reactions. His punditry is there to be agreed with, shot down or simply ignored. When Teletext launched its daily-updated section dedicated to the Nationwide League (ITV p175), Docherty was approached because he is a knowledgeable as well as pugnacious character with firmly-held views. Love him or loathe him, he doesn’t sit on the fence as many pundits do.  And as Teletext is delivered free to your home, you can take or leave his opinions without your pocket suffering. Not true of all media. Ed Horton’s concluding point was: “With all this time devoted to people who have nothing new to say, could not a little more space be found for the mere supporters.” Well, on p175, Teletext already provides a platform for supporters to sound off every week. It’s called Fan-scene, which is on air from Thursday midday to Friday midday. The fanzines of all 72 Nationwide clubs are welcome to air their views. And it doesn’t cost a bean! If you want to have your say, contact Adam Keeble at Teletext, 101 Farm Lane, Fulham, London SW6 IQT; by phone on 0171 386 3687; fax on 0171-386 5618; or e- mail on adamk @teletext.co.uk.
Peter Erlam, Teletext Regional Editor

Dear WSC
I find it hard to see how the Brazilian Francisco Marinho could be described as a “defender” in WSC No 133. The guy was dubbed ‘Mezzaninho’ while playing for New York Cosmos in the early 1980s for launching wild shots into the second deck at Giants Stadium. A defender? Not bloody likely.
Jack Bell, via email

From WSC 134 April 1998. What was happening this month

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