THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
I have just received the July issue of WSC, and cannot believe that you, along with the rest of the footballing media, have not spotted an unique footballing fact, as noticed by that great sage and philosopher, Mr Ronald Atkinson.  Towards the end of the European Cup Final, the Holy One commented that Italy was going to have an unprecedented treble of losing clubs in European finals – Juventus, Inter Milan and, er, Paris St Germain.
Tony Blatchford, Bath

Dear WSC
If any of your readers are perplexed by the radical transformation in the fortunes of Bolton Wanderers, I can exclusively reveal that the answer lies in Feng Shui, the increasingly popular Oriental concept of rearranging buildings to reap benefits from packets of positive energy.  After their struggle for points and premature capitulation in 1995-96, the club decided to swap over the home and visitors dressing rooms. Result: prolific goalscoring and a promotion season of brazen audacity. When the Trotters migrate from Burnden Park to Horwich next season, rumour has it that the build up of positive adrenaline generated will make Labour’s election landslide look like a penalty shootout. Other clubs have tried to cash in on Feng Shui, with less success. Sunderland failed to realize that there is no more motivational atmosphere than the Roker Roar itself, while Middlesbrough’s reconnaissance of the Riverside’s spiritual geography was cancelled out by the wilfully negative manoeuvre of signing Mikkel Beck.
Tony Kinsella, Swinton

Dear WSC
The Bald Facts feature (WSC No 124) cast what little remains of my mind back to Craven Cottage in December 1978. A rare Newcastle away win was covered by Match of the Day. As we sat around in the Eric Miller Stand, awaiting the FA Cup Third Round draw, manager Bill McGarry was wheeled out for an interview.  As luck would have it, Barry Davies was the BBC’s man that day. At the time, Bill and Barry both favoured the Bobby Charlton ‘sweeper system’ look satirised some years later by Gregor Fisher. Even more fortunate – at least to the puerile minds of the reprobates lounging in the stand – was the fact that a pretty serious wind was hurtling in from the Thames, with the result that the two pseudo-Shinyheids conducted the interview with hands clasped firmly to the few remaining strands on their respective heads. Sadly, I missed MOTD that night, but I suspect that the Davies/McGarry interview proved a seminal point in persuading many trainee Ralph Coates lookalikes that it just wasn’t worth the effort.
Tom Locke, Eritrea

Dear WSC

Harry Bassett at Forest – what the hell is going on? First, he bungles the signing of Kevin Miller. Then we sign Thierry Whatsisname on a one-year contract so we can relive the Lars Bohinen fiasco in twelve months’ time. Now we’re battling it out with Bristol City for Geoff Thomas, he of 36 games in 4 seasons. If other Forest fans send me their season-ticket money, I’ll try to sort out a contract killer.
Graham Bunting, via email

Dear WSC

Reading David Eveleigh’s letter in WSC No 125 (and seeing Fly Me Too The Moon in the First Division’s fanzine section of the same issue – sob) I have the over-powering urge to add my name to the long list of whinging Middlesbrough fans.  The problem is that David’s letter contains an outstanding inaccuracy. He says, “Incidentally if we assume that Middlesbrough would have lost the original fixture at Blackburn, which they later drew, aren’t they only two points worse off and down anyway?”  No we wouldn’t be! Boro would have finished on 41 points along with Southampton and Coventry and it would have been sorted out on goal difference. If Middlesbrough had been punished in the same way that David described Exeter being punished in 1974 – Blackburn awarded the match 2-0 and Middlesbrough heavily fined – then Coventry would have gone down.  I suppose that the bright spark at Middlesbrough who took the final decision to call off the Blackburn match did so in the firm belief that a similar punishment would be meted out. This would be better than to going to Ewood Park with a team of school-boys and losing 20-0.  What this person didn’t take into account was the Premier League’s ability to make the rules up as they go along. Nothing in the League’s rules states that you get a three-point deduction if you call off a fixture. The decision was made arbitrarily.  David also goes on to say: “...and haven’t Blackburn been denied two points through no fault of their own?” Now this is wrong again. Blackburn didn’t want to be awarded the match without playing it. That would have meant losing a home fixture and the extra revenue that that entails. I had hoped that people like David had at least understood the full mathematical horror of Middlesbrough’s plight. That a club that gets deducted three points and then gets relegated by exactly by those three points is an incredible and dreadful coincidence. Although it was a fairly obvious one if you’ve been following Middlesbrough for a while.  The decision seems irreversible now. Neither whinging, court appeals nor divine intervention look likely to spare us from Division One and, much worse, losing Juninho.  Put in the perspective of real football disasters like Hillsborough you feel a bit silly going on about this. Still, I couldn’t let it lie.
Neil McCarthy, via email

Dear WSC

It’s time to put the case in defence of Emerson (Letters, WSC No 125). With depressing predictability, the media leapt into witlessly xenophobic action when Boro went down, singling out the mad-haired Brazilian as the sole cause of Boro’s plight.  Yes, you heard. It wasn’t anything to do with the strange meeting of Juninho and Philip Stamp in the heart of midfield, nor was it the ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a butterfly’ defensive blueprint that cost so many goals, nor was it the hideously ill-thought-out ambition of the manager and his hopelessly naive chairman. Nope, it was all down to that damned temperamental South American, who’s fine with the sun on his back etc etc. What utter crap.  Yes, he played appallingly at Leeds, but it was about his turn. His march to the dressing room was condemned by all and sundry, the idea presumably being that his presence on the bench afterwards would have inspired Boro to a six-goal burst that would have kept them up...  Let’s be realistic, the real reasons for Boro’s failure were the piss poor defence and Bryan Robson’s utter refusal to manage the side properly. But of course, Robson’s English, isn’t he, it couldn’t possibly be his fault...
SR Davidson, via email

Dear WSC

It looks as though Boro’s purchase of Paul Merson is yet another commercial coup for Steve ‘Baby Face’ Gibson.  Now, for the cost of a tin of red paint (and someone to paint out the ‘E’) he can transform those piles of returned/unsold Emerson shirts into something that the fans will be queuing up to buy...
Nick Morgan, Northallerton

Dear WSC

I’ve just read Tony Kinsella’s article about Eddie Colman (WSC No 125), and I thought I’d better correct the obvious mistake – next year is the 40th anniversary of the Munich air crash, not the 30th.  I’m also a bit distressed that he, as a Red, seems to be giving credence to the myth that United draw their main support at Old Trafford from ‘foreigners’. This accusation is the last refuge of the jealous City fan. As a survey by the local radio station a few years ago made clear, United’s support in Manchester is greater than City’s. In addition, the latest survey of Premier League supporters showed that over 75 of the regular attenders at Old Trafford are from the Manchester area. Incidentally, the club who have the greatest proportion of season-ticket holders from outside their area is the side that finished fourth in the latest two horse race – I’ll let you work out who it is.
Des Browning, via email

Dear WSC

Yes the play-offs are unfair, Graham de Max (Letters, WSC No 125), and of course at the end of a League season the highest-placed teams should be promoted. But anyone who was anywhere near Northampton towards the end of May could not possibly have missed the effect that a Wembley visit had on the club.  The whole county went Cobblers mad. There were 32,000 supporters at Wembley! The team travelled through Northampton in an open topped bus on the Monday at the head of the Spring Gala and were met by scenes usually associated with a cup final success.  Seasoned sports journalists who have seen the rugby team at Twickenham and the county cricket team at Lord’s said they have seen nothing like this. All this for finishing fourth in Division Three.  I have supported the club for over 30 years through thick and thin, mostly thin, and this was the best football day of my life. I have always been against the play-offs, but not now.  But the play-offs are unfair in other ways: we were playing off for fourth place in an atmosphere like a cup final, making wads of money (£100,000 to £250,000, depending on who you believe) and creating interest in the club that money couldn’t buy, whilst those well above us on merit slipped slowly into the close season without a murmur.  The turn out of supporters from Northamptonshire reinforces Roger Titford’s comments in WSC No 125 about the latent support for lower division clubs and the true viability of these clubs.  It seems a shame that Hereford United, in an area lacking other clubs, should be replaced by Macclesfield, from the most populated area, football club-wise, in the country. Macclesfield are more than worthy from a football point of view, but I hope that their crowds increase from their Conference level or they won’t last long.
Bill Craven, Daventry

Dear WSC

I have recently been witness to the phenomenon of lightning striking twice. I am currently residing in the Japanese city of Sapporo where Diego Maradona’s brother, Hugo, plays for the local team, Consodole Sapporo of the JFL (the division below the fast fading J-League).  During a recent game in which Consodole were leading 3-0, a cross came in from the left and Maradona, unmarked, appeared to head the ball home from six yards out. However, the fat and talented one’s slimmer but less talented brother actually punched the ball home and was subsequently booked for his audacity. (Justice at last, maybe!)  It appears that either I have unearthed a family trait or God now has his hands full...
Ed Frewin, Sapporo, Japan

Dear WSC

Although I have no television footage to substantiate my claim, I find it hard to believe that Brian Cant regularly wore an Ipswich scarf on Playaway (Fanzines, WSC No 125).  As Mr Cant spent most of each programme hopping around on his haunches pretending to be a field mouse, it would have been highly impractical for him to have a scarf flapping around his shoulders, and it would have also got tangled up in the microphone cord when he sang the Playaway song at the end.
Matt Nation, Hamburg, Germany

Dear WSC

David Stevens’ article Care In The Community (WSC No 125) reflects the conventional wisdom that Premier League football clubs have now become so distant from their local communities as to be out of sight and are now nothing more than “money grabbing corporates”.  This may well be true at the majority of clubs, but having been actively involved with Aston Villa over the last twelve months, I felt the least I owed them was to fight their corner. I am a Fire Safety Officer and in the last year Villa have assisted us with A Children in Need event (a personal appearance from Doug Ellis here!) which enabled us to produce our most successful fire safety posters ever and granted us facilities to hold Fire Service Roadshows on their property in the heart of Aston. The cost to us was nil.  Aston Villa has put itself out for us to benefit its local community and deserves credit for doing so.
DK Richards, Station Commander, Birmingham Central Fire Station

Dear WSC

What an interesting letter from Martin Haworth (WSC No 125) about the National Lottery sounding the death knell for non-League clubs.  Surely the idea of entering a lottery for big cash prizes is to win a big cash prize – forget where the money goes if you lose. If you want to give to a charity and not to a Camelot ‘fat cat’ then don’t buy a lottery ticket, but make a donation to your favourite charity.  Likewise, if you want to support your local football club then make a simple donation without expecting the chance of a cash prize. Imagine how the income of a club would increase if every home supporter paid, say, 50p each home game on top of the gate price (half of a National Lottery ticket), but the club didn’t have to shell out a cash prize. It could, especially in the case of a small club, make the difference between financial survival and the unimaginable.
John Clifton, Aldershot

Dear WSC

When people wake up to the Everton stadium dupe it may be too late (Electoral Blues, WSC No 125).  I write as treasurer of the Goodison For Ever-ton fans’ group (GFE) formed to halt our chairman’s railroad approach to a proposed move. Apart from the fact that there isn’t much wrong with the 40,000+ present site that can’t be corrected in situ, there remain scores of valid yet unanswered questions that render Mr Johnson’s recent nod in the direction of football democracy completely null. A ‘fans’ vote’? Hardly. It’s a fact that Everton haven’t got £100 million-plus for a new stadium. Unless of course a megabucks developer steps in and creates an out-of-town retail complex (currently under moratorium) with a football ground at its heart (moratorium loophole). What’s the betting that Everton will just happen to play there?  But we won’t own it. So what’s the betting on a 99-year lease? In other words, we won’t control our own destiny. Well, gee, thanks, Mr Chairman.  Bizarrely, though, Evertonians have fallen for it big style. And Johnson knew this. All he had to do was grab the local media where it hurts and it was a formality. Propaganda, it’s normally called.  Goodison is partially landlocked yet the residents are prepared to move. So has the chairman asked them? Not a bit. Breathtaking!  These anomalies are the iceberg’s tip and we’ve been pointing them out for months. We produced a counter-brochure to the chairman’s glossy number (which was a joke anyway) pointing out a selection of these out. But what did the club and local media say in response? “Luddites – the lot of them.”  Would you sooner cast a vote, on any issue, with all the facts at your disposal or just five per cent? And to think we called it a flawed vote.
Greg Murphy, GFE

From WSC 126 August 1997. What was happening this month

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