THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
As a student of Romanian language and literature (no, there aren’t many of us) I spend a lot of time in Romania and have become rather fond of Steaua as a result. Unfortunately, I was not in Bucharest for the visit of Aston Villa, and therefore had to watch the game on Channel 5. I spent it counting cliches. They started immediately after the opening titles ceased – cue shot of the Câsa Poprilor, which is not where Ceaucescu lived as Channel 5 told us; cue orphans; cue interview with a taxi driver (and I hoped he ripped Channel 5 off as Bucharest taxi drivers do most foreigners). Even worse was the predictably awful pronunciation of Romanian names. For the eight thousandth time, ‘Steaua’ is pronounced ‘Ste-au-wa”. As for the attempts by all involved to pronounce ‘Ciocoiu; (which should be ‘Chock-oi-oo’), I’m still laughing. Villa themselves must also be berated for their patronising ‘gifts’ of food and bobble hats to a Bucharest orphanage, thereby reinforcing all the stereotypes that Britons have vis a vis Romania, sure to be repeated during the World Cup . The Romanians’ economy is not as strong as our own, but the populace is not starving, and does not need charity.  But perhaps Villa have now set a precedent, whereby teams from strong economic powers should bring donations for their poorer hosts. So, if Villa go on to play a German team later in the competition, maybe their opponents should bring food and clothes for the homeless of Birmingham?
Craig Turp, London SW20

Dear WSC
As a Portsmouth fan, may I thank Sarah Gilmore for her excellent article on Terry Venables (WSC No 131)? I was beginning to think, with some despair, that I was the only Pompey fan who saw El Tel as a false Messiah. Last season was quite successful by our standards, with Pompey reaching the FA Cup quarter-finals and coming within a whisker of the play-offs on the back of a sound 4-4-2 system.  This year we have switched to wing backs and often play with one man up front – changes that have a marked tincture of Venables about them. Unfortunately, as the League table shows, these systems are ill-suited to our squad – and indeed to the First Division. With the club beset by financial problems and relegation becoming more of a certainty week by week, I find it very depressing to see Venables escape any criticism from the same fans who call for Fenwick’s head. Congratulations to Sarah Gilmore for seeing things at the club as they really are.
JD Cully, London E15

Dear WSC
While I wholeheartedly agree with John Tandy’s points (Letters, WSC No 130) about the use of ‘weakened’ sides in the Fizzy Cup, I have to wonder why he doesn’t understand the nature of the fuss. Is it not all tied with the root of all evil... money?  Granted, yes the last thing title-chasing club would want is for their starlets to get a right kicking in a third rounder that keeps them out for three or four League games. I know of no Man Utd fans throwing themselves off railway bridges (more’s the pity) after the ‘shocker’ against Ipswich. However the besuited ones at Coca Cola, and those who fawn over them for sponsorship are not going to be too happy unless they see the big names up there. So it seems not unlikely and not too far down the road that the better First Division teams will be battling it out every April for the prestigious Fotheringales Otter Farms Cup.  I know it’s an appalling vista but the question needs to be asked: if the Big Five or G7 or whatever are forced to field full-strength sides, then how long before they start deliberately (gulp) chucking their Second Round games? Gillingham 7 Arsenal 0? Say it ain’t so, Arsène, say it ain’t’ so.
Martin Kelleher, Cork, Rep of Ireland.

Dear WSC
Radio phone-in shows that take place soon after the full-times have been announced on Saturday afternoons are usually irritating affairs, whether they feature the usual crop of sour grapes callers bemoaning their side’s fate, or the constant interruptions of the egomaniacs who preside over such shows.  Recently my local independent station, Radio City, enlisted the services of one Derek Hatton, who we are led to believe is a ‘true’ Evertonian. In theory, such a programme that features a man who was kicked out of the Labour Party for his Militant philosophies, broadcast at a time when Everton’s days in the top flight look to be numbered, would appear to have considerable potential for a lively and open debate.  However, our Degsy contrives to show once again what he is really made of, a man who has always talked loud and said nothing. His lack of empathy with the frustrations of his fellow Everton fans becomes apparent as he exploits the show to massage his ow ego.   But this should come as no surprise to anyone who watched a BBC documentary series called My Brilliant Career which was broadcast about eighteen months ago. One episode was dedicated to Derek Hatton, who reminded viewers that he was a loyal Everton supporter. Too illustrate this, we witness our Degsy in the crowd at Everton’s FA Cup final victory against Man Utd just over two seasons ago. As Paul Rideout scores the winning goal, the camera cuts to a jubilant Degsy celebrating the moment with his fellow Evertonians.  However, I could not help but notice that one of these supporters just happened to be wearing an Everton replica shirt, imprinted with the DANKA sponsor, even though Everton’s shirts were still being sponsored by NEC on the day of the final (the DANKA shirts would not become available until the beginning of the 95-96 season, some two and half months after the Cup f inal). I have wondered ever since how Derek Hatton was able to accomplish such a feat. Maybe he’ll tell us when he renews his season ticket for Everton’s Nationwide League campaign next season.
Rob Fitzgerald, Birkenhead

Dear WSC

Ian Plenderleith’s generous review of Goalkeepers Are Different was greatly appreciated, but the book (Puffin) is still in print; just.  John Scotney, a veteran of the BBC Radio Drama department, had in fact turned it into a children’s serial for Radio 5. But then Radio 5 Live supervened, and children’s radio was dropped. Shades of World Cup 1974 when, in the Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen studio immediately after West Germany had beaten Sweden, my interviewer held up a copy of Der Profi (alias The Rise of Gerry Logan) and said,“Franz Beckenbauer says this is the best book on football ever written”. It was out of print.
Brian Glanville, The Times, London E1

Dear WSC

Can the policemen among your readership please advise us why Stevenage v Newcastle in front of 6,500 may be ruled out on ‘safety’ grounds but Stevanage v Gateshead in front of 6,500 is presumably perfectly OK?
Les Sill, Tring

Dear WSC
I was appalled by Cris Freddi’s reference, in his article on Helenio Herrera (WSC No 131), to Celtic’s 1967 European Cup win as “all the Celtic bullshit”. Freddi is disingenuous to a scandalous degree when he describes Inter as being “... without Suarez and Jair, so there was no springboard out of defence...”. It would have been far more honest to point out that the real “without” in the scenario was Jock Stein, who, unlike Herrera, was without the funds to buy any football superstar on earth, and who made a team of virtually homegrown players (all from within a 50 mile radius of Glasgow) into the best in Europe.  As for Celtic’s winner being “offside”, study of the game is surely enough to convince anyone that after Celtic equalised, their ultimate victory was inevitable. Shortly after the Lisbon final, Celtic indulged in more “bullshit”. They played Real Madrid in the Bernabeu Stadium in Alfredo Di Stefano’s testimonial game. Celtic won 1-0. Perhaps Cris Freddi can inform us who Real Madrid were “without” in this game.
Martin Callaghan, Wakefield

Dear WSC

Cris Freddi, in his otherwise interesting appreciation of Helenio Herrera, mysteriously refers to “all the Celtic bullshit (and its 30th anniversary this year”). Herrera himself might stand accused of starting the “bullshit” with his immediate post-match comment that “Celtic’s victory was a victory for football”.  Cris Freddi advises us that Inter Milan “were beaten by an offside goal (see the BBC freeze-frame for proof)”. I immediately rushed to my video but, unlike Cris’s version, my tape doesn’t have a camera angle looking along the line as the ball is played.  What my 1967 European Cup final video does show is Celtic thoroughly outplaying Inter, virtually from start to finish, so maybe I’ve got an entirely different version of the tape.  So Inter were without Jair and Suarez? Celtic were without McBride, their top goalscorer. And what of the whiff of corruption that emitted from Inter’s negotiation of the semi-final in that particular European Cup competition?
Graham McColl, Streatham

Dear WSC

The problem of too many foreigners coming into the Premiership will never be resolved until instances like this don’t happen:  Stan Collymore: cost – £7m, 2 goals in half a season; Francesco Baiano: cost – £1.5m, 11 goals in 16 games to date.  Now I can appreciate that bargains can be had if you look hard enough, but how much would Baiano have cost if he was English? As a Derby fan, I am loving every minute of this particular transfer, but if world class strikers like this can be found on the continent, why on earth would anyone want to buy British? I can only see it getting worse.
Andrew Allen, Blackwell

Dear WSC

I’ve noticed something about shirt badges and it troubles me that it has taken so long to spot it. Think of the classic badges of Arsenal and Liverpool. Arsenal’s was just a cannon, nothing else, Liverpool’s a plain golden liver bird. Nor pick up any newspaper and take a long look at Ian Wright or Robbie Fowler.  Arsenal’s badge has been placed on a shield. The shield has been joined by some stars and script that the marketing guys obviously felt was unfinished unless it went on another shield. Then a bit of extra script (no doubt suggested by a different marketing company) neccesitates another shield for the whole to go on. It’s unwieldy to say the least.  This is small beer, however, compared to Liverpool’s badge which now has shield upon shield upon circle upon shield, with so much added text that it’s almost impossible to discern the original design at all.  Why do clubs do this? If they are going to bring out a new shirt every twenty minutes anyway why further prostitute the club’s history by fiddling with the badge? Real marketing professionals would say that a company’s strength is indicated by the ability to simplify the corporate logo. Nike, for example, decided to leave off their company name as the ‘swoosh’ is so identifiable it needs no extra embellishment. Shell recently dropped their name from their petrol station logo, relying on the shell design alone. Did you notice? Well, there you are then.  I remember the days when I was quite impressed that teams at Wembley had extra text on their shirts, such as ‘FA Cup Finalists 1978-79’. Different times.
D Wallis, Calne

Dear WSC

If you think Jason McAteer’s shampoo advert is embarrassing then those with access to German TV satellite broadcasts should watch out for Oliver Bierhoff literally singing the praises of a brand of chocolate mouse. McAteer merely makes your toes curl. Bierhof will have you hiding behind the settee.  Imagine a 13-year-old boy with stage fright singing solo at the school panto, knowing that all his friends and family are laughing at him, then in mid-chorus his voice breaks and then he wets his pants. This is Bierhoff. This is the shameless face of modern football.
Ken Sproat, Newcastle

Dear WSC

So, Jurgen is back and the good times are sure to follow. But why stop there? Nostalgia is big business these days,and there plenty of other past glories that could be revisited at a profit.  Spurs might for instance, start selling the supporters’ cockerel costumes that played such a key role in the club’s FA Cup runs of the early Sixties. Hell, they might even get Christian himself to stroll about in one before each match as a way of bonding more effectively with his public (I sense a bit of frostiness in that area at present).  And they could always bring back David Pleat (a good manager ten years ago) in some vague scouting capacity. No, hold on, I hear that Alan ’s done that already. My but he’s a sharp one. Look out you mid-table clubs, big boy coming through.
Keith Sherlock, Harpenden

From WSC 132 February 1998. What was happening this month

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