THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
I know the battle for the soul of football has been lost when someone writes to WSC to justify both the ticket arrangements and pricing of Euro ’96 (Letters, WSC No 115). For the record, the minimum admission at Birmingham City this season is £10, but to attempt to justify Euro ’96 prices by comparing them with admission prices for (what is effectively) a Division Two game is surely to miss the point not once but twice.
David Warren, Keighley

Dear WSC
In his article Self Supporting (WSC No 115) Ed Horton is both right and wrong. He is right that English fans not supporting English teams in Europe is a new thing but wrong in his analysis of why this is. Ed presumably considers himself to be fair-minded and so is reluctant to admit that the pleasure he derives from the defeat of the big clubs is anything other than jealousy-inspired hatred and so constructs half-baked arguments about greed as some form of self-justification. (Poor but honest Oxford Utd would, of course, give any profit from a European campaign straight to charity.) The reason for the new attitude is that, sadly, it is the modern way to resent anyone who is more successful than yourself: directors of privatized industries and top footballers get paid ‘obscene’ amounts of money, but who amongst us would not changes places with them? It would take cleverer people than Ed or I to explain the reasons for this resentment. Ed, and anyone like him, should be man enough to admit that they are petty, small-minded individuals and not try to defend their indefensible prejudices.
Geoffrey Brough, Shrewsbury

Dear WSC
Interesting. He preferred to be known as Jordi for Barcelona and Holland, but for United he’s Cruyff. Nothing to do with the Old Trafford marketing men, of course.
David Butler, Manchester

Dear WSC
Your editorial in WSC No 115 suggested that the day football followed hockey’s example of bringing on a specialist player to perform a particular function, you would launch a tiddlywinks magazine. In fact, a footballing precedent for exactly this practice was established in the early 1960s. The exploits of Gorgeous Gus, an upper crust striker with an explosives hot, were graphically catalogued in the Victor. Gus, supremely gifted but not renowned for his work-rate, would be brought on only for penalties or crucial free kicks from which he consistently scored. Not only this, but he sported silk shorts and was tended on the touchline by his personal valet. Could you kindly send me by return the inaugural issue of your tiddlywinks magazine?
Chris Marshall, Brighton

Dear WSC
Call me a forgetful old ninny if you like, but didn’t Coventry employ Gordon Strachan last year on the basis that his experience would be invaluable in setting the right example to the Sky Blues’ younger players?How, then, to explain his behaviour of the past two weeks? On Saturday 24th at Stamford Bridge, Strachan led a bravura display of indiscipline – obviously the product of many years of practice – after Chelsea’s disputed first goal. After berating the linesman, he charged on to the pitch to confront the referee in a five-minute long tantrum. Inspired by this fine example of experience at work (Strachan remembering how often referees change their decision if you argue vehemently and long enough), several Coventry fans broke down the advertising hoardings and began to encroach on the pitch, attracting the frantic attention of stewards. Strachan, suddenly converted to the role of diplomat, quickly shepherded the fans back into their seats, saving them from almost certain arrest, expulsion from the ground, withdrawal of season-tickets, righteous excoriation by Jimmy Hill etc.In large measure thanks to their experienced coach’s intervention, Coventry players continued protesting until they had McAllister and Ogrizovic booked (more responsible leadership from the experienced end of the team here) and Daish sent off.Since the FA seem to have been unsighted throughout this entire incident, Strachan forced them to pay attention four days later with his monumental display of petulance in the reserve game against West Brom, when he held up play for a quarter of an hour after refusing to leave the field when sent off. And that’s only in reserve-team mode. Much more experienced leadership like this and City will have no qualms about introducing a whole flock of YTS kids into the first team. In fact, they’ll have no choice.
Jerry Stott, London SW17

Dear WSC
Don’t sell the mighty Huddersfield Town short (WSC No 115)! Our unlucky defeat at Man City in November 1987 was 1-10, not 1-9. At the time we were being managed by Malcolm Macdonald, who popped into Leeds Road now and again when he wasn’t running a pub in Worthing or a sports agency in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. And the videprinter on Grandstand put the word ‘ten’ in brackets after city’s score... Andy Donkersley, Shifnal

Dear WSC
In last month’s Club Preview (WSC No 115), you asked supporters what would be the first thing they would do, given the chairmanship of their football club; to which Leeds United’s Don Watson expressed a desire to have Howard Wilkinson declared insane. Considering events at Elland Road of late, with the mega wealth accrued by some board members only minimally less mind-boggling than the manager’s contract – he will apparently be rewarded with well over a million pounds even if he quits – I beg to suggest that of the 38,000 or so Yorkshire folk who may seemingly qualify for a visit by the men in white coats, Howard Wilkinson can definitely be excluded.
Monica Hartland, Cobham

Dear WSC
Yet another season is upon us and we are faced with a new black and white strip, a new blue second and a red third kit. Do the FA really think us parents can afford to keep up with our kids demands to look like their favourite referees?
Michael Freeman, Colchester

Dear WSC
There I was enjoying the new Season preview (WSC No 115) getting all excited and anticipatory about what somebody was going to write about my brave boys, but I should have known better. If it’s Oxford, give the job to Ed ‘Mr Positive’ Horton. I am going to set the scene now and then I’m going to moan, okay.Picture this. The new season starts with the club buzzing: promoted; one or two new faces in the team; a new kit, not at all bad (especially if you leave the button undone); and 4,500 turn up to see us beat Le Tissier and the boys in a pre-season friendly (we’ve been through whole seasons without that many turning up for a game). So what does Ed think of our chances for the forthcoming season? He’s non committal. He makes a stab at irony with reference to being the chairman (by the way, we have a chairman who turns up to games, knows a bit about football and actually supports the team), and of course he realizes that none of our team are going to get in the England side. Come on Ed, who wants realism at a time like this? If I were Glenn Hoddle I’d have half the Oxford team in the squad.As for Ed’s opinion of Euro ’96. What you’d expect, I guess. I know it wasn’t perfect, but as my wife sat down with her crisps and lager (I made a stupid pledge not to drink until England lost) and watched the games with me and the kids started singing, “Football’s Coming Home”, instead of “Go Go Power Rangers”, I thought it was bloody great. Football is great, Oxford are great, I’m great and Ed Horton is a boring old git.
Bob Pomfret, Oxford

Dear WSC
Further to the debate about Baddiel, Skinner and the New Lads, I think Graham Ennis hit the nail on the head with his observations on the subject in the pre-season preview in WSC No 115. Football fan culture is varied and complex, and it was deeply insulting to see it reduced to the collection of tired jokes about slapheads and fatties that formed the large part of every edition of Fantasy Football. Unfortunately, some of the programme’s detractors offered a stupid reason for disliking it – that it involved celebrity fans, many of whom were (gasp!) neither male nor working class. Now I don’t disagree that it was irritating to see people with clearly no more than a passing interest in football given an opportunity to air their views, but surely the crux of the problem was the sheer mediocrity of the show. If the hapless presenters (one, admittedly, a lot worse than the other) had been able to go some way towards reproducing the irony and surreal inventiveness that are characteristic of football fans, then the show wouldn’t have come in for such a panning.
Sharon Hamilton, Finchley

Dear WSC
I wonder if your readers spotted the strange misconception under which a couple of our international managers seemed to be operating over the last week or so? I noticed in the papers this week that Glenn Hoddle was talking about David Beckham and his “maturity”. He’s got the “maturity” to be an international player, Glenn said. Then after the Austria v Scotland game, Craig Brown was fulsome in his praise of Duncan Ferguson’s “maturity”. What the hell are they on about? Since when has smoking a pipe, collecting trad jazz records, securing a fixed rate mortgage with no redemption clauses, being tolerant enough to let your partner spend time with friends you don’t like much, being able to explain the birds and bees to a six-year-old, wearing tweedy jackets with leather elbow patches, selling the two-seater convertible and getting a more sturdy family saloon that’s easier on the insurance, and thinking about growing a moustache had anything to do with being able to dribble past a load of foreigners and crack the ball into the top corner of the net? It’s football, for Christ’s sake, not a bloody election for the vice chancellorship of Oxford bloody University.That’s better.
Dave Taylor, Lanark

Dear WSC
Is Robin Stewart (Letters, WSC No 115) deliberately trying to be funny when he argues that Huddersfield Town’s new stadium is designed to be functional rather than aesthetically pleasing? “The curved roof keeps the spectators dry,” he claims. Really? Well, so far, my only visit to the McAlpine Stadium was with Blackpool in January. I was sitting dead centre in the away end and got bloody soaked as the wind blew miserable Yorkshire rain through the entire stand. God knows what it was like sitting at the extremities. At least at Blackpool we admit to having a shit ground.
Geoff Pearson, Southwell

Dear WSC
At last people are taking Sheffield Wednesday seriously. Last season we had hopes of a European place, but after a merciless catalogue of injuries we were unjustly condemned to a relegation dogfight. Now, with a full, fit squad, and lots of youngsters making it competitive for the veterans, Wednesday have their best chance of winning the League since 1992 and Leeds' jammy last-gasp victory. While the team plays in a recognizably Pleatesque style, it has acquired some additional muscle and self-belief. European Cup next season? Maybe, but one thing’s certain. We won't go the way of previous early season leaders like Bristol City or Carlisle who ended up going down. Oh no. Actually, I'm a Leeds fan. I was just trying to imagine what it must be like being a self-righteous, deluded Owls supporter at the end of summer 1996. Quite amusing, really.
Kevin Coleman, Leeds

Dear WSC
I must agree with James Clarke (Letters, WSC No 115) regarding Lee Hurst’s ITV appearances during Euro ’96 being about as funny as a lift home from the pub with Tony Adams. Perhaps for their World Cup coverage ITV should turn to football’s top comedian, Mark Jensen of The Mag. His line in your Premiership preview (WSC No 115), “Our likely full back combination, Robbie Elliot and Steve Watson . . . are a class above the Neville brothers”, was simply inspirational stuff. The man’s a genius.
Tony Clough, Grantham

From WSC 116 October 1996. What was happening this month

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