I was very interested in the letter (WSC 276) discussing the topic of the Duckworth-Lewis of football that is stoppage time. Are there any WSC readers who are aware of stoppage allowance for cheating ball boys? I attended Colchester v Southampton in December 2009. The home side took a two-goal lead before the Saints slowly clawed their way back into the game. However, our momentum was thwarted by a series of ingenious defensive set-pieces that can only be attributed to hours of practice on the training ground. They went like this: ball goes off for a Saints throw or goal-kick, ball boys strategically placed around the ground retrieve the ball in exaggerated slow motion or, if the pressure was really on, then not at all. One very clever set-piece saw the ball rest at the feet of the ball boy. He then sat motionless on his stool causing Kelvin Davis to have to race 20 yards to retrieve the ball. Should the fourth official have added stoppage time to thwart this cunning plan? And have any other away teams been subjected to such coaching genius?
Tony Cole, Leigh on Sea
Picking up on Steve Whitehead’s suggestion in WSC 276 that commentators need more modern points of reference for their description of the goal frame, I might suggest that they take a look at the current range of GCSE courses on offer. Sitting through an “options” presentation at my 13-year-old daughter’s school last spring I spotted the perfect solution. Woodwork, metalwork and crafting with plastics has been rolled into one course that goes under the splendid name of “Resistant Materials”. So there it is – “rattling the resistant material”– a youth-friendly phrase to ease into our ageing commentators’ vocabulary that is technically accurate and should stand the test of time; at least until we develop some sort of controlled electromagnetic force field to represent the limits of the goal maybe. Sadly she opted for Art.
James Winstanley, North Wales
Regarding the Match of the Day debate (Letters, WSC 277), I must add to the nostalgia for the days when they showed only two games. I do recall one evening when David Coleman came on and announced, in a really annoyed voice, that the first half of one game covered was so bad that they weren’t even going to bother to show it and went straight into the second-half highlights. Oh, for that monochromed honesty in the Premier League era.
Len Horridge, Leeds
Following on from the recent theme of MOTD giving multiple clues to goals before they go in, can I be the only person to have spotted the programme has also taken to good-as-announcing the result of one game every week before the action even begins? Viewers not wishing to know the Liverpool result would do well to avoid tuning in before the start of the opening match, as once glance at Alan Hansen is normally all that is required. This became apparent to me earlier this season when, having gone to that-episode-of-the-Likely-Lads-lengths to avoid hearing the Liverpool v Man Utd score, I tuned in to MOTD2 only to find that the “big guns” had been wheeled out for the occasion, where the sight of Hansen grinning like a post-coital Cheshire cat told me all I needed to know. Still, it at least made a change from his normal look this season, which most closely resembles that of a man who has just reversed over his dog.
Graham Davidson, London
I wholeheartedly agree with Russell Walker’s sentiments about applauding away keepers (Letters, WSC 277), though I would suggest that the practice probably started to drop off around the time Jens Lehmann appeared on the scene in England. He would single-handedly challenge Russell’s assertion that goalkeepers are frequently the least obnoxious players on the pitch.
Rob Kenny, London
For me, the most interesting element of Portsmouth’s current financial saga is their objection to being charged VAT on player transfers. Am I alone in thinking that this surely depends entirely on the type of player involved? VAT is essentially a luxury tax. Thus, a gnarled and hardy centre-back with a broken nose is emphatically not a luxury. A tricky winger, however, (particularly if imported from abroad) represents an element of frippery on the part of the buying club, a treat to themselves much as you or I might buy a doughnut on the way home from work. Perhaps an unintended consequence of Gordon Brown’s reduction of VAT to 15 per cent last year was that it encouraged clubs like Portsmouth to spend beyond their means on those little luxuries. It’s probably no consolation to Portsmouth fans, but their club have arguably contributed altruistically towards Britain’s emergence from recession through their wanton spending on midfield baubles.
Ed Bridges, Cardiff
Ralph Milne is clearly a much greater talent than even he himself realises. Neil Forsyth’s review of Milne’s autobiography in WSC 277 says the Dundee United winger covered 100m in 10.1 seconds, while wearing “old trainers”. If this is true – and how can we doubt it? – it means the Scot was quicker than Jesse Owens, capable of winning gold in the 1980 Moscow Olympics (fellow Scot Alan Wells won in 10.24) and silver (behind world record holder Carl Lewis) four years later in Los Angeles. If Milne had been wearing spikes who knows how fast he’d have gone? My guess is Usain Bolt would only be the world’s second fastest man.
Harry Pearson, Northumberland
As a Colchester fan it was with trepidation that I began to read your article on our rivalry with Norwich (WSC 277). We have already been subjected to inaccurate reporting of the recent difficulties in the Norwich-based regional media. I must congratulate Paul Buller on a pretty fair summation of events since August which have included remarkable scorelines, the controversial “recruitment” of a management team and an allegedly unfair ticketing policy. According to the Colchester version, saintly Delia’s desire to “do anything to put it right” has not included telephoning the U’s chairman, who delayed several months before putting the matter into the hands of a League tribunal. It seems strange as one can remember Norwich showing no reticence over similar issues when Mike Walker departed for Everton. No football fans like to see points deducted and it is not likely to happen in this case due to our proximity in the table. However, would not all fans of small clubs see this case as an opportunity for the bigger boys to be taught that they cannot get their way by bullying? Finally, I must say that I was not aware of hundreds or thousands of Norwich fans in the sold-out home areas. However, when my friend stood up to question the physical fitness of referee Mike Dean the colour of his high-viz cycling jacket excited a trenchant reaction from many nearby fans.
Richard Blythe, Colchester
Paul Caulfield’s idea for a new reality TV show – based around training pundits as referees (Letters, WSC 277) – is amusing and intriguing, but he really ought to be careful what he wishes for. In WSC 157 I frivolously suggested that interactive television should allow viewers to reject the traditional impartial match commentator and instead select ones that favoured the competing teams. In so doing I accidentally invented Sky TV’s “Fanzone”. I feel in no way responsible for the monstrous realisation of what was otherwise a sensible if mischievous idea, but I should nevertheless like to apologise for any distress my reckless humour may have caused. It’s a great weight off my mind.
Howard Pattison, Exeter
While attendances in Italy’s Serie B are appallingly low, they’re not quite as bad as Gavin Willacy implied in his article, Missing in action, in WSC 276. The figures he quoted for the weekend before Christmas were for paying spectators and did not include season-ticket holders. Albinoleffe, one of the clubs he mentioned, have 2,512 (I’m one of them, and my season ticket cost me €40, around £36, for the whole season of 21 home matches but that’s another story). Also, the translation of “la fede non retrocede” should really be something like “faith doesn’t get relegated” which I think makes the supporters’ point rather better.
Richard Mason, Bergamo, Italy
I couldn’t resist replying to Andrew Traynor (Letters, WSC 277) in which he falls for the obvious trap set by Trevor Jones (Letters, WSC 276). Mr Traynor wished to challenge Mr Jones’s assertion that Tranmere Rovers are the only team with a Viking name in the English league, citing York City as an example. What Mr Traynor ignored, however, was Mr Jones’s assertion that Tranmere Rovers were the only team to have a name of Norwegian Viking origin – Mr Traynor will surely be aware, as a resident of York, that his home town was captured and populated by the Danes, not the Norwegians. There are several other English towns which boast Football League teams with names of Danish origin, including Scunthorpe and Grimsby. This whole matter may have precious little to do with football but the pedant in me felt the need to set the record straight here.
Matthew Preston, Didsbury
David Bull is absolutely right to suggest that match officials require training to ensure they detect players who fail to observe the rules when taking a throw-in (Letters, WSC 277). However, my gripe regards players who consistently lift a foot as they deliver the ball back into play. That this infringement is so rarely penalised has been a source of irritation to me for many years, but the emergence of the long-throw specialist has obviously raised the importance to beyond that of personal pedantry. The deft exponents of the long throw-in barely even break stride as they sprint onto the pitch, flinging the ball towards the opponents’ penalty spot; this renders keeping both feet grounded on or behind the touchline impossible. Indeed, if Rory Delap develops his high-speed delivery any further he will soon be able to head his own throw goalwards.
Alex Witts, Cottingham
I have to disagree with Howard Pattison’s article decrying the ejection of away fans from home sections (WSC 277). He reminds me of people who knowingly park illegally and then rage at the injustice of getting a parking ticket. You know you’re not supposed to do it, so don’t moan if you get caught. Most supporters will have an anecdote of an unpleasant incident started by an isolated away fan cheering a goal in the home section. It might well be true that the main culprit of such incidents is the home fan who reacts aggressively, rather than the away fan who might simply be applauding in an understated manner, but the fact remains that the former will only react to the latter’s actions. Given the likelihood of this happening, why not just not do it? Sadly, Howard Pattison’s article is symptomatic of a wider attitude among some football supporters of “Why shouldn’t I be able to do anything I like?” and the suggestion that anyone who stops them is part of some dystopian new world order intent on turning us all into vapid football consumers. The segregation of home and away fans is designed to help make the experience of attending a match safe and enjoyable for everyone, including families. Would it be too much to ask for a small number of supporters, or even just one, to moderate their behaviour slightly to avoid the potential of spoiling the enjoyment of those around them?
Sam Watt, Bedford
Michael Flack (Letters, WSC 277) claims not to have been taken in by the Milton Keynes 2018 bid, but the facts don’t seem to support him. It’s difficult to separate the MK bid from the MK Dons when both are fronted by the rictus grin of Pete Winkelman and then Michael asserts that MK Dons “regularly” have attendances above 15,000.But they don’t. Just one game out of 22 home matches so far this season has exceeded that figure (thanks in part to the hordes of travelling Leeds fans). And, geography-wise, I fail to see what the city of Coventry and the Ricoh Arena couldn’t deliver that the town of MK has promised. Nor indeed other established cities like Derby or Leicester. What a pity the people of MK were too apathetic to embrace one of the many indigenous non-League clubs that have failed in the town over the past 25 years, thereby “responding to the existence of a football club (owned and run by local people) on their doorstep the way people everywhere do”. As Jim White so aptly wrote in the Daily Telegraph the day after the successful bid hosts were announced: “Meanwhile, in Wimbledon they must be looking on in astonishment at the glittering rewards of theft.”
Ray Armfield, Kent
As a Burnley supporter who has been having his weekends ruined by Tom Hark for even longer than Keith Chapman (Letters, WSC 277), I would gladly see (hear?) our confounded goal music relegated back to the Championship along with Wolves and Wigan. Bring back the days when we were able to do old-fashioned things, like cheering, when our team scored. Incidentally, is it coincidence that Wigan and Wolves have scored fewest home goals in the Premier League this season? Perhaps their players detest Tom as much as we do.
Crawford Scholes, Macclesfield
I note recent correspondence about annoying terms used in football. In Scotland one of the most over-used incorrect terms is “provincial clubs”. This is widely accepted to mean all teams other than the Ugly Sisters from Glasgow. However, I suppose we cannot expect too much. During a dispute over television rights a few years ago parts of the media referred to ten (of the 12) SPL clubs in dispute with the aforementioned duo as the “rebel ten ”.
Only in Scotland.
Gordon Hands, Edinburgh
From WSC 278 April 2010